What an Individual with Special Needs Can Teach Us About True Love
In Ethics of our Fathers (Chapter 5 Mishnah 16) it says, “Any love that is dependent on something–when the thing ceases, the love also ceases. But a love that is not dependent on anything never ceases.” Some simple examples of love based on something that is fleeting would be loving someone for money, looks or other superficial reasons. This type of love is not based on the essence of the person but rather on elements that surround the person.
You don’t just connect to people because you share experiences, or you share interests, or you can talk about the same TV shows or sports teams. There are deeper things you can connect to a person on.
Our sages take this concept one step further and tell us that even things that seemingly show a deeper connection and bond are also fleeting. For example: being connected to somebody and building a relationship based on common interests, liking ones personality or working on a common goal together are not real bonds.
Even though these ideas show a strong bond they can be ruptured at any second for a multitude of reasons.
So What is a real bond?
The only real bond and connection that will never change must be soul to soul. Anything other than that cannot be considered a true bond. As a physical being: Our emotions, our feelings, our character is fleeting and can change instantly at any moment.
An individual with special needs represents a real bond
To further understand what it means to have a soul-to-soul connection we can look at an individual with special needs. When a person connects to a child with special needs it can be much easier to look past their physical character.
In an individual with special needs we know to look passed the disability and look to the essence of their being, to their soul. By looking at their core you can know who they truly are and can connect with them on a deeper level. Interact with an individual that has special needs and you won’t be distracted by other commonalities or common grounds. The relationship’s not built on those things. And really that is the way it should be.
Pride vs. Love
If your child is successful in school naturally you have much pride from your child’s efforts, but is the relationship with your child based on that? If they wouldn’t be successful and wouldn’t give you joy from their scholastic endeavors would you love them any less? You may not be as prideful but your love would remain the same.
The definition of a real love, a real and unchanging connection is that there’s nothing the person can do to make you love them any less. In fact you could take this a step further, there’s nothing they could do to make you love them more!
Because the love isn’t based on what they do or don’t do, it’s based on the essence of who they are. The essence of who they are is the soul.
The Connection Starts at Home
In order to connect to the essence of another human being, to connect to their soul, you first have to connect to your own soul. It’s been said that we’re not human beings having a spiritual experience, we’re spiritual beings having a human experience. To realize that you are a spiritual being, that you see yourself as a soul, and you identify with the soul, then you can connect to another person and identify them as a soul.
Having an individual with special needs in our life helps us to get in touch with our true selves. We see this being actualized on a regular basis. A family member, a volunteer or a complete stranger will come to assist or spend time with an individual that has special needs. And often what happens is a bond is created between the two. Why does this happen? This is because these are two individuals who are looking beyond the physical. They are looking into the essence of each other.
The homework is, evaluate your relationships. How do your relationships in life measure up to the purity of the relationships you have with a child with special needs. Are you connecting to people based on fleeting things? Or is the connection based on that which is unchanging and eternal?
The souls are all one.
Only the bodies divide us.
Therefore, one who places the body before the spirit
can never experience true love or friendship.
-Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
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