It can sometimes turn really murky to try to figure out what is normal and what isn’t, who is normal and who isn’t.
Just a few months ago, Yeshiva Bonim Lamokom celebrated its annual Shabbaton. This is the highlight (among many others ☺ ) of the yeshiva year, as students, rabbeim, teachers, therapists, office staff and faculty’s families pack their bags and head upstate for a glorious weekend of non-stop fun and inspiration.
My family and I consider ourselves blessed to be part of this magical getaway. I always manage to walk away from these weekends with much food for thought and a lot to chew over. This year was no different.
During one of the Shabbos meals a student of Bonim Lamokom stood up and delivered an electrifying Dvar Torah, the creation of his own brilliant mind. Unfortunately, his speech is not very clear and the delivery of the speech did not have the impact on the listening audience that it deserved. However, it was astounding to observe the 55 students with Down syndrome who sat quietly through this lengthy speech, with nary a peep to their friends sitting alongside them. Each student played the role of attentive listener with the utmost respect, and when their friend concluded the speech, cheers and hand clapping permeated the air, followed by high-fives and backslaps. It was amazing! First, the self-restraint, followed by goodwill and cheer on behalf of a friend’s honor.
During the course of Shabbos I had the opportunity to offer a delectable piece of birthday cream cake to one of the students, who graciously declined because he is on a gluten-free diet. Another student declined different goodies because he is trying to lose weight.
One brave student comes every year, his CPAP machine in tow, to deal with his sleep apnea, even though it took him a long time to get used to the discomfort of the contraption.
In a world where the term ‘self-restraint’ has lost its luster and has all but been banished to non-existent hemispheres, it is heartening to observe a group of young men sticking to some good old-fashioned principles.
I’m still scratching my head and wondering – so who is normal and what is normal?