They may be nonverbal but, trust me they speak!

שתי בנים במרכז פעילות Two boys at activity center

Insights from a Volunteer at ADI Jerusalem’s Winter Camp

by: Eitan Salmon

“How do you know that they are really having a good time?”

Yedidya’s question took me by surprise.

Many of the residents at ADI Jerusalem don’t express feelings during activities. Could it be that the entire operation doesn’t measure up and meet its own basic goal?

This past week, I volunteered at ADI Jerusalem’s winter camp. I’m not a regular volunteer at ADI. I show up from time to time. This year, I joined the technical team for the annual winter camp.

What can I say? Wow! A stranger will never understand.

Thirty residents accompanied by 60 staff for two intense days of fun, activity, fresh air and  . . . pure, honest giving of the heart. Chesed!

The muscle in my heart that gets excited when I see someone doing a good deed worked non-stop during the two-day camp.

It could be pushing a wheelchair through the uphill path of the Aminadav forest or dancing for two hours during the evening activity with a young man who doesn’t exactly cooperate.

It is blenderizing his food because he can’t eat solids and also changing his diaper late at night, though your eyelids are heavy from exhaustion after a crazy day of activity.

It is to pack up the bus and then sing and dance during the ride even if it embarrasses you to do so. To carefully and gently jump up and down with “your” resident. With dedication. With consideration.

It is to think only about his experiences and forgo any thoughts of self.

It is to look him straight in the eye and understand that even if he doesn’t always show enjoyment or express appreciation for all you have invested – he feels it. Because perhaps his body is not perfect and his ability to function is lacking, but inside, there is a heart.

And what emanates from the heart, finds its way into the heart.

To go with him to the Kotel, the Western Wall, and to pray. To pray that life should be good for him. That he should be happy. That he should be able to break through the glass ceiling and rise above his disabilities.

And these words are familiar to you. Because like him, you have to be happy and rise up. You also have a glass ceiling. And he, yes he, helps your heart heal. His heart gives you strength.

To give, is to receive.

“Of course they are having a good time!” I answered Yedidya, but that wasn’t enough for him. “How do you know?”

I closed my eyes for a minute. Took a deep breath.

“Look into their eyes, dude. Forget the rest. Look into their eyes. If you take a really good look, you’ll see a heart bursting with joy.”

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