I have spent a life-time, ok, 65 years, trying to integrate all my various parts into one complete life…and it hasn’t been easy. I am a woman, someone’s daughter, granddaugter, sister, aunt and niece. I am a rabbi, an interfaith minister and a maggidah (spiritual story teller). I am a teacher of English, language arts, science, math, reading, writing, ESL and ABE. I am a mentor of clergy and academic masters and doctoral students. I am a writer, an artist, a dancer (well I was at some point and hope to be again someday.) I am a chef, a baker, a singer and a poet. I am a professional story teller. I am an friend and an enemy, an acquaintance and a neighbor. I am a soulmate and a confidante and sometimes a mother-confessor. I am a citizen, a member, a congregant and a politician. I am a scholar, a researcher, a journal-keeper and an actress.
And, I was once someone’s wife and the mother of his children…and that is where it comes together…the mother of his children. The love and the marriage didn’t last…but motherhood was for life.
I guess that’s where the story comes together. I guess all the other titles and jobs and realities fade when I remember these children were once carried safely within me until they made their appearance into the world. I believe that relationships are the only coinage one can take with them when they leave this world for the next. I believe that everything I do to “be”, really “be” with another person, is the real stuff of grades in the “big grade-book in the sky”. And so here I find the fulcrum of my life, the integration of all my days,here…when I pick up the phone and the person on the other end says, “yo, Ma” or “Mommy” or “Mother” and I am able to answer “yes, that’s Me and I am here, child…and I thank you for being there.” I guess that is the whole story.
With many, many blessings and very great love for all of us in 2012 and beyond…Rebba Raine
The Rest of Yesterday’s Story
So, I got a message last night that said my story wasn’t completed. Well, I would hope not! I made a deal with G-d on my 54th birthday after I crashed during an operation. I said, “I will work for you for the rest of my life and in addition I want 54 more years!” So, now the story isn’t complete. But for those of you who need more explanation…here it is.
What Knowbility has given me, along with a wonderful website for my non-profit, Hashem’s House, a house of prayer and interfaith dialogue for all of Hashem’s children (that’s you too, in case you weren’t aware of it), is a way to give back to all of Hashem’s children. My Rebbe, Joseph Gelberman of blessed memory, use to teach us in Synagogue and in Seminary, that the way to cleave to Hashem, to love Hashem, is to love ALL of Hashem’s children. And that’s what Knowbility does for all of us. It gives us a chance to love all of Hashem’s children, even the one’s who come to Earth with differently-abled bodies and minds. I cannot take credit for the term “differently-abled”. It was given to me by my cantor back in NYC, Rev. Orah Gibbons, who is helping me design a Seminary curriculum for “differently-abled” students. Orah is legally blind and has been for some years now. But like her name, Orah, the Hebrew word for light, this lovely lady sees in so many alternative ways. And her spirit records it so wonderfully. My son Ian and Rev. Orah love to joke around. One day, no joke, we were heading north on 9A out of NYC. I was driving along and Orah said to me, “you just missed our turn.” I looked at her and yes, she was still blind, so I said, “I didn’t see a sign.” She answered, “I did…” and indeed she did.
Since that time, Ian loves to get in the car with us and say, “ok, Mom, let Orah drive, she knows the way better than you!” It’s a funny thing that happens whenever we all get together. It’s like a running joke…but it is more true than not. Orah does know the way better than I do. And so do some of the other folks I’ve met.
A few years back, a student of mine, came to me at the end of the Seminary classes and said, “my parents are going to hire signers for the ordination so that my younger brother can enjoy my ordination as much as anyone else.” I didn’t know about Dr. Craig (my student) in terms of his family. I soon learned that he signs so he can communicate with his younger brother Robert. And there were two incredible signers at the ordination. I was fascinated by the loveliness of their movements. It seemed like an “other-worldly” kind of dance. And it made me wonder about how folks who are differently-abled live in this world that so neglects their needs. That’s when I started working on this idea of ministerial training for differently-abled students.
And there’s where the integration of AIR-Austin comes into my life. We are all Hashem’s children. And because I am a mother, I feel that very strongly. I have been fortunate although my children are also somewhat differently-abled. My sons are Agent Orange children, born after their father was exposed to the deadly chemical in Viet Nam. Each has had their own issues with the aftermath of that exposure. And I have mothered them through it all. So it seems perfectly normal to me to work with other folks who also deal, on a daily basis, with differently-abled issues. Recently, one of my men coming out of incarseration, admitted to me that he probably would have been dead by now, “of booze, drugs and rock and roll” if it hadn’t been for the fact that he’s been in prison for a long time. I remember hearing Nelson Mandela say something similar about how being in prison all those years may have saved his life, protected him, as it were, until it was safe for him to re-emerge. Life is strange, isn’t it.
So here’s AIR-Austin and Knowbility, providing me with the perfect vehicle for plying both my motherhood and my teaching abilities, for the good of others. Others, by the way, that are as perfectly imperfect as anyone can be. As a mother, as a teacher, I must stretch myself, past my preconceived notions and limits, to provide for them that which they need. And AIR Austin and Knowbility help me make it happen better than most other venues in my life.
So hats off to you Knowbility…and hats off to all of you perfectly imperfect Children of Hashem who give me so many opportunities of not just growth but total integration of all I am and all I am yet to be!
With many, many blessings and very great love for all of us,