Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Power of One

This past week I attended an event called JEDx put on by a Jewish organization for young professionals called The House. It’s basically like a Jewish TEDx where speakers come from all over focused on a theme and how their Jewish values came into play, and how to be a better person in society and our own communities. This year’s topic was The Power of One, and it was a group of extremely inspirational human beings. The House was started over 10 years ago by one of my heroes and high school teacher Rabbi Rafi Lipner (he was also one of the first people I told about looking for a surrogate as he’s super connected and has been so supportive and kind during this journey of our’s). At the end of the event Rabbi Rafi said something along the lines of you don’t do inspiration at an event, it’s what you do afterwards. And it got me thinking. It’s twofold - first, how am I going to be a power of one, the goals of this blog, how to reach out to people to make infertility a little less pain and a little more love, and two, how I have been affected by so many ‘ones’ who have made me get to the point where I’m staying mostly sane on this crazy journey of infertility and am now writing my 10th blog post.

There are 2 speakers from the event in particular that spoke about things that really resonated with me.

Maayan Ziv, the founder of AccessNow, a global accessibility crowd-sourcing app making our world a more accessible place, says that everyone is disabled in some way, so things have been invented to deal with it - we moved out of cities so now we drive cars, we built tall buildings so now we have elevators, closed captioning on television, but when you’re a minority within the minority and can’t just walk into a store with one step up, there’s still so much more that needs to be done. When you’re able-bodied, we don’t realize there’s a problem. A few months ago we were out in the distillery district with friends and our friend’s brother was in town from Israel and he’s in a wheelchair. We walked into this restaurant to grab a drink and every single table was a cruiser. There was nowhere to actually sit down. Infertility is a different kind of disability and I think we’re at a pretty early stage within society to make things easier for us. People still ask inappropriate questions and give advice about something they know nothing about. I would never go up to Maayan and tell her that through prayer she’ll be able to walk and maybe if she just ate some more sweet potatoes she could drop using a wheelchair. Television shows rarely portray us, and other than in Sex in the City, infertility seems like something pretty simple. I worked at an organization once that gave extra sick days for taking care of children, which honestly is quite amazing, but my sick days for infertility appointments were my own. How can we make society more accessible for the infertile?

Maayan talked about how adversity is where we shine. It’s that moment of “it’s too hard, I can’t do this” that we have to push a little bit harder and we discover things about ourselves we wouldn’t have otherwise discovered. The past 4+ years I have been living “it’s too hard, I can’t do this.” Even my husband has had enough already and is like, I really should be a father by now. But through it all I have a newfound strength. I feel that through this blog I am already making a little bit a difference, helping infertiles and those around us. I have big plans for Almost in Womb, but I know it starts with this, with writing a post every week, raising awareness through people sharing and liking posts. It’s baby steps. Just like how Rabbi Rafi started JEDx with 50 people in a tent 4 years ago and now had almost 1000 people in Koerner Hall. The direction can only go up for Almost in Womb and I’m excited by the possibilities. And it all came out of adversity.

(c) Rebecca Schwartz

Another speaker at the event, Joseph Gitler, who founded Leket Israel recognized a problem, a huge societal issue of hunger across the country, and just started feeding people. They do food waste and rescue, have their own farms, and are now feeding 200,000 people a week. He talked a lot about the power of ‘ones’. The individuals that came together to make a difference in their own communities and partnered with Leket Israel. In the past 4.5 years, I have been lucky to come across a lot of ones who have made a real difference for me. From the wonderful receptionist at the clinic, to bosses at work who took on more work when I couldn’t, to our families who have been overly supportive and helpful, to one of my colleagues who dropped everything and was there for me when I totally broke down at work after there was no heartbeat at the ultrasound that morning, to the facebook community who shared my post about 300 times in October 2016 about looking for a surrogate and sent us an outpouring of support, to a friend who reached out to see how she can help us raise more awareness in the Jewish community, to so many more. These individuals have all made a difference in my life and for infertiles and I am forever grateful. We all have this power. To be ‘one’ who makes a difference for someone else. Even it just means being a little empathetic. Or listening. Or simply smiling. Or working a little bit harder to help out a colleague who is having a bad day “for no reason”. You never know how you can make someone’s day and that person almost always pays it forward in some other way.

We all have this ability to be a power of one. I remember before coming out about my own infertility I had a couple of friends on facebook who already had and would post things from time to time on the topic. I would see who within my network would like and share those posts and posts of others. And I therefore always knew who was “on my side”. Who would be sensitive and helpful when the time came to open up about it or if I ever needed anything confidentially. You never really know who is struggling with infertility, and showing support for those who are “out” can make a big difference in the lives of people who are in this situation and those who are close to them.

Maayan Ziv of AccessNow at JEDx

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