Bread-making for the soul

Rain is pouring down as I write this, as it has threatened to do all day long. The sun has emerged and then hidden itself multiple times, much in the way my mind has been bobbing from pleasant thoughts to dark, hard memories of this day one year ago—a day in which the weather was eerily similar.

Last year, the Friday before Labor Day, my son and I were violently attacked by 3 dogs, as we walked home from his school bus. The images, sounds, and pain of that day are not far from my thoughts.

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If I’m honest, not a day goes by when I don’t think of that time—a pang of remembrance, residual fear when I see or hear a dog, a moment of gratitude,  a realization that we are OK and we have been blessed in so many ways. While external and internal scars remain, we’ve come so far in the past year.

Today, I just couldn’t summon the energy for all of the errands and projects I’d intended. Instead, I spent the afternoon baking a challah, the traditional braided bread for Shabbat (the Jewish sabbath). I have only made challah a few times in my life and I had forgotten how time-consuming the process can be.

Making Bread

The recipe requires considerable patience after mixing the ingredients:  letting the dough rise, kneading it, putting it aside to rest and rise, kneading…  again and again, braiding it and then gently turning up the temperature as it bakes. The recipe is a variation on a tradition that has existed for centuries.

This afternoon, it was just what I needed: pounding the dough, stretching it, transforming it, making something nourishing for my family.

As the sweet aroma of the baking challah fills our kitchen, I think about the ways in which healing resembles the bread making process. It takes time, patience, warmth, attention, pounding through hard moments, stretching oneself, resting, working through it, and repeating. The good and the bad of the last year are braided together, inseparable.

We are different than we were one year ago but I hope as we eat this bread tonight, we will focus on the sweetness of being together, with gratitude, and with a renewed commitment to showing kindness and empathy toward others who go though challenging times.

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After trauma, I am grateful for everyday heroes

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A few months ago, something terrible happened.

In early September, my son and I were suddenly and violently attacked by three dogs, about a minute after my 7-year-old Noah stepped off his school bus. With his forehead ripped open, Noah had to undergo emergency plastic surgery. He spent two days at Levine Children’s Hospital, where he began the long road to physical and psychological healing. I was also injured while trying to protect him— my arm and leg punctured by the powerful jaws of the attacking dogs—but my heart is what hurt the most.

Despite the range of feelings we experienced, from fear and anger to sadness and anxiety, this traumatic incident also reminded me of humankind’s profound ability to do good.

So many people—friends, family, and strangers —have reached out to us to help.

There are good people out there, everyday heroes who make a huge difference. Sometimes it’s a professional calling, people who have made rescue and healing part of their daily lives. But just as often it is someone who makes an extra effort to do something kind, generous, and restorative.

Fred Rogers, the beloved children’s TV host, summed up these types of heroes well: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”

Thinking back on this challenging autumn, there are an extraordinary number of helpers to whom I want to express my gratitude. They have given me hope for a better world—people of all backgrounds, differing politics, from preschool aged kids to 95 year olds. Their instinct to do good reassures and reminds me that each of us has within us the capacity to help, heal, and improve the world.

We will never forget what people have done for us during this difficult time and I intend to pay it forward for the rest of my life: in daily actions, in choosing to do and help rather than shake my head in frustration; in reaching out when there is a need.

Do not believe anyone who says your actions don’t matter or can’t make a difference. They do. They can change the world—starting with the very first person you reach out to help.

I am grateful for…

  • 14368658_10157321205435417_3831717987397763119_nThe man who appeared on our doorstep, offering his tickets so Noah could see his first Carolina Panthers game
  • The custodial worker who loaned her cell phone charger to my husband in the ER  
  • The Child Life Specialists who eased Noah’s worry before each new step—sewing stitches on the forehead of a stuffed toy alligator to cuddle, showing Noah how to spray Mama and Papa with syringes filled with water, giving him a certificate of bravery when he had to return to the ER for rabies immunizations 14225556_10157268366100417_7244498196059035147_n
  • The bus driver who gave Noah a heartfelt card and gift, sharing her own worry and sorrow over what had happened, and who ensures his safe arrival home with such love each day 
  • The hospital chaplains who held my hand and listened 
  • The dear friends who saw a need and jumped into action organizing meals and funds to help with medical expenses 
  • The firemen who came by a week later to check on Noah and invited him to tour the firehouse when he felt better  
  • Friends, family, and strangers who sent cards, emails, texts, and messages of encouragement 
  • Those who sent Legos, puzzles, magic tricks, books and more to help Noah recover 
  • 14237743_10157282649700417_8798556737170770263_nThe paramedics who showed such calm and reassured Noah at the height of his pain and panic 
  • The Missouri school teacher and her students at the French immersion school who heard about what happened and sent Noah a care package full of well wishes and gifts 
  • Folks who appeared on our doorstep with cookies, gifts for the kids, and soup 
  • Friends and strangers who thoughtfully sent notes and gifts for Noah’s 4-year-old brother Matéo too 14355792_10157302199265417_4270704502750235806_n
  • Our caring pediatrician and her staff who supported us immeasurably and even made a house call
  • Friends who told us how important self-care would be and offered support in multiple ways
  • My sister and brother who dropped everything to come help
  • An elderly woman who saw Noah’s story on the news and sent him a care package filled with superhero mementos
  • A school counselor and school psychologist who went above and beyond, visiting Noah at home and ensuring his positive readjustment to school 
  • Handmade cards from Noah’s schoolmates as well as from other local kids 
  • 14269753_10155171614135410_1676238903_nThe Animal Control Officer who stayed with us at the hospital, long after his shift ended, to ensure our safety and the police officers we never met who scoured the surrounding neighborhoods for the attacking dogs 
  • Friends who sat with us in the hospital and made sure we ate something
  • Neighbors who sprang into action—on the scene and in the days that followed
  • Reporters who showed compassion
  • Friends who helped with childcare in our most challenging hours
  • A principal who called Noah at the hospital
  • Nurses who eased Noah’s worry (as well as our own) and made him comfortable during his hospital stay 
  • 20160912_165043Teachers who came to visit, called Noah, read to him, and checked on our family repeatedly
  • A surgeon whose superior technical skill was matched by his ability to relate and empathize with his patient and parents 
  • Cousins, aunts, uncles, and dear friends who reached out from across the US and around the globe
  • Mental health professionals who have helped us stay afloat and progress
  • Those who lovingly prepared meals and sent gift cards, cleaned our house, or did our laundry 
  • Our parents who ran errands, sent thoughtful gifts, entertained the children, gave hugs from near or far, and provided shoulders for us to lean upon

We are forever grateful for your acts of kindness.

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