Issue #22 – Gratitude

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Chaya Bruchy Mehring
Written at Age 13

I was just a small first grader when my sister was born.

I was proud of my new uniform with its freshly pressed shirt and sharply pleated jumper. A few months of school didn’t take away that feeling as I walked through the halls of Bais Chana each day. No less was my feeling of pride when I heard that my mother had a baby. I was the big sister! Not only was I a big first grader who could help a lot, I was also the baby’s only sister among my siblings – all boys.

My excitement was pierced slightly as my parents gently broke the news to me. My little sister, the tiny, innocent baby had Down syndrome. She had a disability. She was different. Certain things would be hard for her, she would be weaker than other babies, she would need more help.

I was so proud of my sister. I still loved her, despite the fact that her days weren’t only filled with eating and sleeping. My little baby sister spent hours with therapists who challenged her with tasks that were difficult for her. They pushed her to limits, and worked with her until she slowly mastered baby steps. My little baby sister had to learn skills that would come naturally to other babies, like crawling, walking, talking. As my sister grew up she had to go to a special school to help her earn. People say that children with Down syndrome can’t do other things that the rest of us, ordinary people can. But my family and I have seen otherwise.

“Ordinary” people are often grumpy. They wake up on the wrong side, complain about everything that goes wrong, and need to be reminded to be cheerful sometimes. Ella is always happy, so full of simchas hachayim. Even when something happens that would upset me, Ella is still happy. She smiles through traffic jams, she smiles when the store is out of the skirt her size and she smiles when it’s time to go to sleep. Ella can make others happy so easily – her smile is irresistible and contagious. When others are upset, Ella is the fist one to go over, give a kiss and say, “feel better”.

“Ordinary” people are often selfish. They are hesitant to share or help others. Ella is always ready to give, offer help and part with her personal belongings. She can be found enthusiastically sharing her snack in school without anyone telling her to do so.

“Ordinary” people often give up. They find it easier to say, “I can’t do it”, than to keep on trying. Ella doesn’t give up; whether it’s getting the folder into her knapsack, putting her coat on, or packing a toy away in a tight space. Ella keeps on trying until she CAN do it; she perseveres until she meets success.

“Ordinary” people often forget to say ‘thank you’. They forget to thank someone who has done something for them, whether it’s a special favor, or a simple one. Not Ella. Ella doesn’t forget to thank the bus driver, the man in the grocery store or my mother. She remembers to say thank you, even when it’s something as small as getting a drink.

And so, the world says that my sister can’t do a lot of things that I can. But they don’t know that my adorable sister, Ella, is my teacher. Ella has taught me what true simcha is. She has taught me what selflessness is. She has taught me what persistence is. She has taught me what appreciation is.

My sister has taught me, and continues to teach me every day. Ella is “extra ordinary”. And for that I am grateful.