Who Loves Me? by Jodi Samuels
Every night, when we put Caily to sleep, after her bedtime story, the last thing she asks us to do is to go through a list of everyone who loves her. We rattle off the names of family, friends, classmates, teachers and therapists. She beams through the whole process, and then turns onto her side with beautiful look of pure contentment, and off to dreamland she goes.
Caily feels so loved and accepted. In spite of her challenges, she is exceptionally confident and will always offer to lead davening (prayers) for the whole class. Her favorite thing is to stand on a chair when we have a big Shabbat dinner and answer Parsha questions in front of 150-plus people. This is a confidence born from unconditional love and acceptance.
Flash back to just a generation ago, when it was recommended to institutionalize babies with Down syndrome. No doubt their parents loved them, but they were not exposed to a community and a world of love and acceptance. No one believed that these kids had potential. Caily is part of a generation that have been given unprecedented intervention and opportunity and as a result, have the potential to achieve so much. So many people with Down syndrome are aspiring to great heights and we are looking forward to Caily’s journey. We expect a lot and give her every bit of support that she needs, but at the same time, we will never be disappointed if she does not reach a target.
Our birthday blessing to Caily on the occasion of her 6th birthday is that she should continue to be a light that shines bright. We hope that she touches every person she meets and helps each person change their knee-jerk reaction to seeing a person with Down syndrome. We hope that Caily can help the world drop their stereotypes and join in her journey of helping the world completely accept her and all people with disabilities.
Jodi Samuels is a City Leader and writer, with experience in the nonprofit, finance, fashion, beauty and automotive sectors. She successfully started 2 nonprofit Jewish organizations, including the Jewish International Connection New York, which currently boasts 10,000 members from 40 countries.