L to R: Hunter, Jackie, Hannah, and Greg Rodriguez
Each month at our all-staff meetings, a different staff member will start the meeting with a D'Var Torah to share something about that week's Torah portion and relate it to the work we do at our agency. Yesterday, Jackie Rodriguez, payroll specialist, shared a very personal and heartwarming story. She has given us permission to share it with all of you. Please leave comments for Jackie!
Today’s Torah reflection comes from the book of Exodus. Moses told the whole Israelite community the steps the Lord had commanded for them to build the Tabernacle, Tent, and the Covering. This was an enormous task that required several days and hours of intensive labor. As a result the entire community excelled with their own abilities of service because of their united faith.
I found it very ironic that this week’s reflection was so related to our organization and the hearts of the wonderful people that work here.
Just like the Israelites, I truly believe the Jewish Family Service (JFS) staff’s faith and desire to serve others in need makes it possible for all of us to discover hidden abilities within ourselves. Labor of service takes a lot of hard work; however it can be very rewarding when you see the results. The power of intention and positive thinking can make amazing changes in our lives.
I believe the organization is very successful because each staff member excels in their own abilities due to their faith in the agency. This amazing transition can also occur in our personal lives.
In speaking with Rabbi Baskin, he mentioned that as the organization has grown, it’s harder to know everyone on a more intimate level. Per Rabbi’s gentle persuasion, I would like to take this opportunity to share my personal story of discovering hidden abilities within myself when times were difficult. Some of you are aware, and others are not, of what happened to my son when he was 14 months old.
Hunter was a victim of Shaken Baby Syndrome at the hands of his daycare provider and we were told he probably was not going to live. Initially he was in a coma, on a ventilator, blind, in a wheelchair, and fed by a tube. Over the past 14 years it has been a very labor intensive journey of love, faith, prayers, patience, therapies, advocating, sacrifice, and forgiveness…all the while knowing it will be never-ending.
Like the sayings go, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and “G-d only gives you what you can handle” are absolutely true because I am not dead—yet, and I am a lot stronger. There were several times I questioned G-d “why,” but knew he needed me to be strong to see our son through this traumatic life-changing event.
Once the clouds of despair and hopelessness dissipated, I vowed with G-d’s help to never give up hope and live everyday like it’s a gift. Changing my mindset to be a positive thinker was a very powerful moment in my life. Once my mind believed, my body then took over with action. The action I speak of is the desire to serve other families who have been through similar circumstances.
Initially my passion to educate and build awareness drove me to serve others by creating a website: www.HopeforHunter.com. The intent of the website was to serve as a resource to help families, but it grew and grew into much more than I ever imagined. Over the past several years I have been asked to serve our community by presenting my story to educate others. To date I have presented at several metro area schools, colleges, hospitals, daycare provider groups, and most recently I have a meeting with a parent group at the Anchor Center School for the Blind. Ironically, this is a school Hunter attended and graduated from when he was of preschool age. They served my family and now I am giving back and serving them.
In closing, like Moses and the Israelites, we all have hidden abilities that are within us. When challenged, those abilities make us stronger in the face of adversity and enable us to serve with a faithful heart because when people of G-d join together with a common goal, we can achieve great things.
As the Israelites celebrated the completion of the Tabernacle, my family celebrates the continuing recovery of my son. He walks, talks, rides a bike, is legally blind in only one eye, and currently has straight A’s in his first year of high school. He still continues to struggle with developmental delays and fine motor issues from the permanent brain damage; however Hunter truly is a miracle and we thank G-d every day.
-Jackie Rodriguez, JFS payroll specialist