Begin Again…Today!

Begin again…today!  What a freeing and invigorating thought that should be a morning mental mantra, but is it easier said than done? At this time of year as children head back to school, adults shed their summer clothes replacing them with business attire and full agendas, and Mother Nature shifts the season, life can seem as if    daily routines and challenges leave no room for personal choice. We have a lot to do and a lot of people telling us what needs to be done. How do we break free from the pattern of being that feels tirelessly restrictive?

Recently I was in a near fatal car crash on the Atlantic City Expressway. I was a passenger in a car that was in the right-hand lane going the speed limit.  Suddenly, and without warning, a car bolted from the median of the highway directly aimed at us, crashed into our car, sending our vehicle down a ravine into a tree. After the pounding force and cacophonous clatter of metal there was clear silence. As I sat in this silence, airbags blocking me from the shattered windshield, I felt strangely washed in calm.  I had survived and so had the driver of the car I was in. That was all that mattered. We had survived, and G-d had given us a chance in a very dramatic and unforeseen moment to begin again.

Rabbi Laura Geller, in an excerpt I read today, writes about Rosh HaShanah and the meaning of this season’s Jewish holiday that celebrates the anniversary of the creation of the world, “Your book of life doesn’t begin on Rosh HaShanah…it began when you were born…and the message of Rosh HaShanah is that everything can be made new again, that much of your book is written every day—by the choices you make.” If one believes that at birth one’s book of life is already written and sealed, Geller says that “you get to edit it, decide what parts to emphasize and remember, and maybe even which parts you want to leave behind. Shanah Tova means both a good year, and a good change. Today you can change the rest of your life. It is never too late.” I believe this message is universal and resounds in every faith.

Begin again…today! It is a simple and stunning thought. Life presents each of us with many obstacles and challenges and so many unexpected twists and turns. One’s life can change in the flash of a minute, or can wear one down in a slow, painful grind.  We often can control nothing about our lives except one vital and critical thing that is perhaps greater than anything that can be thrown at us—it is our power of choice. We can choose to begin again, to keep marching, to keep fighting the good fight, and even more, we can choose to live the life we have with the knowledge that is right in front of us taught by the mother of all mothers, Mother Nature…after the storm there will be calm, after the rain the sun will shine, after disaster there will be rejuvenation. Begin Again…today!

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The Birthday of Independence

Today is July 4th, the birthday of the United States of America and our independence as a free and democratic nation.  The words BIRTHDAY and INDEPENDENCE in this instance go hand in hand.  In the lives of adults living with Autism and other challenges, perhaps one could say that attaining one’s independence to live, work and participate in community life is indeed a kind of birthday—or rebirth of the person.  To achieve independence it is essential that the person grows and develops in ways that give him or her the skills, mind-set and opportunities to have the confidence to say, ” I can do it, and I am ready to try.”  In turn, it takes the surrounding community to say, ” We believe in you, and we are here to back you up and support you as you take these new and exciting steps towards independence.”

Just like the the pioneers who forged forward to start our great country, striving towards independence takes courage.  It takes a leap of faith to go on a path not yet traveled without any certainty of what the future will be or even if one has the ability or strength to face what is ahead. Yet, if our forefathers and foremothers did not take this chance, and did not pursue a calculated risk that the future would be better and more prosperous for them, the birth of our nation would never have happened.  No one could have predicted then the impact of their actions, but today, we can truly celebrate the awesomeness of their courage and what was achieved.

Achieving independence is not about going it alone.  Achieving independence is when all of us realize that it is every person’s inalienable right to live a life that enhances personal freedom while embracing our connections to one another.  People living with Autism and other challenges are entitled to the same rights as every other citizen of our country and this includes the right to be independent. As a society we must allow all of our citizens the chance to grow, prosper and flourish to achieve their optimal independence.  We must all take this risk, just like the founders of our nation did, so that all can attain their personal dream of a better life.

On this 2012 birthday of our nation’s independence, as you watch the fireworks, light up the barbecue grill or spend time relaxing—think about what independence means to you and how important it is that you have it.  Now, if you will, think of a person you know who may be seeking more independence or may be capable of it but is afraid, and perhaps you can offer your hand to that person to hold as they move forward into their future of independence.

G-d Bless America Now and FOREVER!!!