Here I am, basking in Jerusalem's golden light. A magnificent orange sun is rising. I catch its glow as my airport cab enters the holy city. My heart is pounding. In just a few moments, I will be holding my newest baby granddaughter, just four days old.
After what seems like eternity, I finally reach my destination. Though it is early morning and the building is eerily quiet, I race up the stairs, luggage in hand. I knock, barely able to contain my excitement.
My daughter opens the door and we happily embrace. Gingerly, she places little Elisheva Shimah in my arms. I kiss her soft silken head and gently put my pinky into her hand. I smile as her fingers instinctively curl round mine. She breaths deeply and I take in this miracle called life. I try to absorb the newborn scent, the eyes that suddenly flutter open, the delicate toes, and the curl of her mouth that becomes a smile. It is overwhelming. I am cradling a precious life – a gift from the Almighty.
As our children grow, sometimes it becomes easy to forget how privileged we are to be called ‘mommy' and ‘daddy.' Carpools need to be driven, baths wait to be drawn, and hungry children clamor for supper. Our bills pile up as we try to deal with tantrums, mountains of laundry, homework sheets, and fighting siblings in the backseat of the minivan. The sacred mission of parenting gets lost in the daily shuffle.
We wonder, "Am I really accomplishing greatness here? Do I genuinely make a difference in this world?" Each day seems to blend into the next.
You may never be written about on the front page of Yahoo or find yourself in Google Search for ‘Greatest Parents of the Universe,' but you must not doubt the impact your presence has on your family. Each soul is touched by your light.
The tear you lovingly wipe away, the bedtime story you make time to read, the patience you surprisingly find when you feel weary and stressed, all teach your child a supreme life lesson. "I am loved." "I am cherished." "I have wings." "I have a soul." It is a lesson that resonates deep within your child's marrow no matter where life's journey may lead.
A woman approached me after a parenting lecture. "I look around this room," she began, "and I feel so inadequate. This mother is a lawyer, this one constantly has company, and this one is involved with charity work while she raises five children. What about me? What do I do that's so great?"
"All you do is love them? Are you kidding? That's huge!"
"Are you there for your children?" I asked. "Do you listen to them? Do you make time for them, guide them, and infuse them with your love?"
She looked at me for a moment. "Well, yes," she said, hesitantly. "But that's all I do. All I do is love them."
"All you do is love them? Are you kidding? That's huge!" I replied. "Do you know how many parents I meet who tell me that they cannot function? They are unable to love; they cannot control their tempers, they cannot get off their cells and blackberries and just find the time to talk to their children. I hear about dysfunctional homes that they grew up in and poor role models so that they cannot be good parents. And you ask me if it is enough to just love your children? If you can give this gift of love to your child so that he knows that he is secure within his heart along with transmitting a legacy of faith, then you have accomplished greatness here."
It is not easy for today's families to prevail. One out of every two marriages end in divorce and those that remain are often steeped in misery. Follow the news and you never know whose humiliating marital confession you will hear today. Financial pressures eat at away at the serenity and peace that was once found within the walls of our homes. Many parents return from work exhausted, their nerves frazzled. And many do not even return from a job; instead they have worriedly been searching for employment.
At the same time, our children are engrossed in their iPods, laptops, and cell phones. They text their friends at the dinner table and we find it impossible to communicate with them. Dad and mom's blackberries keep buzzing. Instead of growing closer, we grow further apart and hardly speak to each other anymore. The fabric of our home is crumbling.
As parents, we have an incredible opportunity to fill our homes with blessing. We can teach our children how to handle life's challenges with faith. We can transmit to them the ability to stand up for truth and kindness. We can show them that one can go through adversity yet remain strong, and success does not have to breed arrogance. We can take the time to stop whatever we are doing, look at our children, and hear them. We can turn off our cell phones and blackberries and talk to our kids again. And then, we can proudly raise spiritual children who are morally anchored.
My Father's Message
My stay here in Israel has come to an end and I must return to the States. It is extremely difficult to say goodbye. Images of those first few moments when I arrived play in my mind. My heart is heavy; and besides, Israel is a world like no other. Jerusalem's stones speak volumes. The pull of our land and the pull of my children tug deep inside me. What can I say? What am I thinking?
I am holding onto this thought, my friends. Long past the time that you've sang your last lullaby, your melody accompanies your child each night as he goes to sleep. Your image and all that you stand for accompanies your child throughout his life. As I look at my children and hold my granddaughter close as we say our goodbyes, I know that they will carry my voice with them.
No matter who you are, no matter your child's age, keep close to your heart the message my father gave me when my youngest son was born. "This precious soul is a gift to you from Above. Watch over him. Teach him well. He is the purest of the pure; a gift from God Himself."