Jacob already has us all planning this coming Shabbat lunch. Why so early? Lunch for 25 takes a few days to plan. We have done it before, but his guests are usually in their 20’s, sometimes engaged or even coming with a spouse and child. He’s never been too worried about impressing them. They have made most of the plans, and he has gone along for the ride. With the exception of one good friend, Jacob’s social life has focused around his previous summer’s camp counselors, and therefore around people in their 20’s. Don’t misunderstand- it literally changed his life. Thanks to these young men and women, his everyday existence shifted from solitude to socialization, and we will be forever grateful to them for that. But something was missing. Having an older teen, and a 12 year old quickly surpassing Jacob’s everyday social activities, it became painfully obvious that he was on the fringe. It was hard to imagine how he could ever truly fit in to the world of his mainstream peers. Even after a highly successful month at Camp M, where he made some really good friends, it was just too hard for the kids to maintain any real relationship outside of camp. It seemed like once the physical space for them to be in together was gone, they didn’t know how to make it work. That was one of our biggest fears with Yad B’Yad. No matter how many times we heard that the location was just the house for the family, we still worried about how it would transfer.
How foolish were we?
The one day between YBY and another camp was not spent with his family, but with his new, age appropriate friends. Before he went to bed his phone was buzzing for hours with texts from tons of new friends. The day after he returned from San Diego (again), those same friends made him a welcome home party. That Shabbat, for the first time ever, Jacob was out Friday night and Shabbat afternoon just like his brothers. We cannot begin to explain to you how painful it is to watch your younger kids go off with friends, while you desperately try to come up with the least awful sounding answer to “why doesn’t anyone want to hang out with me?”. This past weekend, we didn’t have to.
Now, as we sort through the pictures and see the way he was included in every activity, no matter how difficult it may have been to make it work, we are truly moved. We wanted so much to write a letter expressing our sheer amazement at how you took the challenge of a canceled Israel trip and turned it into the most amazing West Coast trip in what seemed like five minutes. It seems likely that anyone planning months in advance would be hard pressed to come up with such a fantastic trip. The thing is, the trip is so overshadowed by what you have instilled in these kids. We just cannot find the words to thank you for allowing Jacob to share in this experience.
Looking forward to many more summers, Shabbosim, and programs together.