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July 23, 2014 / 25 Tammuz, 5774
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The Cat Lady’s Message

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I was going crazy. I couldn’t stand it another minute. Yes, I was feeling sorry for myself.

I had been blessed, b’li ayin hara, with children very close in age. Surely having one child after the other was a blessing to be grateful for. I knew there were many people who would give a million dollars to have such a “problem.” But still, it was very stressful. But that wasn’t the hardest part, and it wasn’t the main reason for my feelings of despair.

I was in such a terrible state of mind because in addition to the normal stress of being blessed with one child after the other, I was also dealing with our oldest – a severely autistic boy who was profoundly developmentally delayed, and prone to tantrums and aggressive behaviors.

So there I was that Shabbos, feeling depressed and alone. I was feeling nothing but utter despair. In short, I was at the end of my rope.

Suddenly there was someone at the door.

Oh no! Who was it now? I was certainly not in the mood for anybody just then. But I went to the door.

I opened the door and there stood a short woman who was obviously not frum. I didn’t think she was even Jewish. “I’m sorry to bother you,” she began. “I’m just going around the neighborhood to let people know that I lost my cat.” “I’m sorry,” I said, pretending to care.

She took out a photograph of her cat and showed it to me. I nodded. “If you see my cat, please let me know.” And then she said something I will never forget: “My cat is my whole life. I have nobody else.” I expressed polite words of sympathy and assured her I would let her know if I found her cat.

When I closed the door, I had no doubt that Hashem sent this woman to my door to deliver a message. The message: Stop feeling so sorry for yourself. Yes, you have it hard with children so close in age and a child with a disability, but think about the fact that you have something to live for. Think about the fact that you have a family who needs you. There are people who have nobody to live for – but a cat.

And now even her cat was gone.

The Cat Lady thought she was knocking on my door to ask for my help. But in truth, Hashem sent her to help me. Like magic, my whole attitude changed. Yes, life was still tough. But I was now imbued with renewed strength.

I wish I could say I learned my lesson for the rest of my life, and stopped complaining. But we humans don’t learn that easily, do we?

We all know what happens. You go to an inspiring lecture. You come home feeling enthusiastic and ready to make some real changes for the better. But how long does the enthusiasm usually last?

So fast-forward to years later. My children are older now. The oldest is in a group home.

Life always has its challenges and problems. The challenges just take on a new hue as our children and we get older. And one day this summer, I once again found myself in one of those moods.

One thing I was particularly frustrated about that day was that I had been davening about certain issues for a while but Hashem was not giving me what I was asking for. Yes, I knew the hashkafas. I knew the purpose of davening is not just to get what we want. But on an emotional level, I just couldn’t go on anymore. It was getting harder and harder to open that siddur, harder and harder to ask Hashem for anything.

That morning, I found myself walking down the street. There was only one thing I managed to bring myself to ask Hashem for that day. While walking down the street, with my last energy, I made one more bakashah: “Please Hashem, give me the strength to continue davening.” That was all. I was not up to more, and I didn’t expect Hashem to say yes to this request. After all, He had been saying no to all my requests lately.

Back home I continued on with my day, forgetting about my bakashah.

That afternoon, I happened to step outside my house and saw a frum woman who I didn’t know near our house. She told me that she had come from Israel to collect money, as her husband was very sick and her son was fighting for his life in the hospital due to an accident. I was horrified by her situation, with both her husband and her son in such a horrific state. How much can a person take?

Hashem was hitting me over the head yet again with this message. But this time Hashem had something more to tell me. The woman was a warm, open person and I liked her right away. She shared some of her feelings with me.

“Sometimes I feel like I just can’t go on,” she said in her Israeli-accented broken English. Could I ever relate to that!

“I go for days without eating,” she continued. “But then I daven and Hashem gives me strength.” She went on to elaborate about the chizuk she gets when she davens, and how Hashem helps her go on. She spoke about this for a while and with great feeling.

Standing in front of me was a woman whose problems were clearly far worse than mine. How could someone stay sane with such tzaros? But although Hashem had still not sent her a yeshuah, she didn’t stop davening. She continued to daven because by doing so, she felt Hashem’s closeness; she felt Hashem sending her the strength to cope. She felt that Hashem cares about her.

I gave her something, but as things were financially tight for us, I couldn’t give her much – despite wishing I could have given her more. In reality, she gave me much more than I gave her.

I went back into the house, straight for my Tehillim. I was davening again. How could I not daven when Hashem just tapped me on the shoulder and told me He wants me to continue davening?

We never know whom Hashem will choose to deliver a message to us. It can be a child, a teacher, a neighbor, or a stranger. The person could be intelligent or otherwise. And little does the messenger sometimes realize that from his or her mouth came the words we needed to hear at just that time.

Henia is a freelance writer. She can be contacted at heniar@ymail.com.

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I was going crazy. I couldn’t stand it another minute. Yes, I was feeling sorry for myself.

I had been blessed, b’li ayin hara, with children very close in age. Surely having one child after the other was a blessing to be grateful for. I knew there were many people who would give a million dollars to have such a “problem.” But still, it was very stressful. But that wasn’t the hardest part, and it wasn’t the main reason for my feelings of despair.

I’d like to believe that I at least have average intelligence. And when in need of inspiration or to learn something to facilitate my personal growth, I gain much from adult tapes and books. I’m greatly inspired by the words of the plethora of writers and speakers who target their words to adult audiences; their sentence structure and vocabulary meant only for us grownups. Their valuable lessons are often arrived at through a series of logical steps any adult with reasonable intelligence should be able to follow. And follow I do.

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