My Friday afternoons are full. But a small part of them belongs to my son. He needs to get back to yeshiva, and we talk while I battle the pre-Shabbos traffic. It's when I get to hear about what is going on in his life and in his thoughts. It's when I get to hear the things he doesn't normally share - the things that boys his age don't seem to feel a need to share. There is something about this quiet time - just me and him - that gets him to open up. I wouldn't give it up for anything.
It is late this time, and I am in a rush to get back home. I wait impatiently for the light to change, as I watch a man in a wheelchair cross the street and struggle to get up on the curb. No one seems to notice. He tries two or three times. People hurry by, oblivious to his struggles - all but one man who stops to help and waits to make sure he is okay before he goes on.
I point it out to my son.
"Do you see that?" I ask. "That was really nice of him."
He looks at me, surprised. "Why is that even worth mentioning? It's not nice - it's normal. It's how it should be. It's what anyone would do."
I know it's not what anyone would do. I just watched people walk right by and ignore it. I see it all the time.
But I know without a doubt that it's what my son would do. I know it wouldn't even occur to him to do any different. I know he'd notice when someone is struggling or needs help. I know he'd notice when someone is lonely or hurting. And I know he'd never just pass them by without offering his help. I know this because I know the kind of person he is.
I look at him, and as he talks, I am struck by how much he's grown, by how much he's matured. It happened so gradually that I could have missed it. He is my child, but he's an adult now. A sensitive, generous, giving adult. An adult I am so proud to have had a part in raising.
I know that who he is...who he became...is not to my credit. I know that we parents can do all the right things, but we have no control over the end result. And I know that I did not always do all the right things.
I don't know why I am so lucky, why I am so blessed.
The Baal Shem Tov taught that every prayer is answered, but the answer may not be what we expect, when we expect it.
I've been through challenges and hardships. I know pain. And I've prayed.
Sometimes those prayers were answered. But often, they were not. And I've wondered...where did those prayers go? Where are those tears?
My son is turning into a beautiful adult, following in the path of his older siblings. They are everything I could ever have wished for. They are all my hopes and dreams come true. Maybe this is where all those prayers went. Maybe this is the result of my tears. Maybe I was not meant to have whatever it is I prayed for. But those prayers were not wasted.
And...if this is where they went, if this is how my prayers were answered, if this is what I was given instead of what I prayed for...I am grateful. If all my prayers and tears were gathered and saved just for this...I am blessed. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. It is worth all the pain...all the anguish...all the tears - it's worth it all.
It is the answer to my prayers.