SELF-ADVOCACY SPOTLIGHT: Susan Burch and Michelle Simon

Essay Forty-Six

I would like to share with you a message from my dear friend and use her message as a conduit for my own. We have known each other for a while but have become extremely close during COVID-19. She is 52 has an intellectual disability. When everything shut down, she needed me and, of course, I was there for her. What I did not know was how much I needed her.

I never took our friendship for granted; I just didn’t realize what great times we had together and how genuinely real and meaningful they were. When it was time to choose our “quaranteam,” we agreed we would be part of each other’s, and the rest is history. We have had adventures and conversations that ended up being highlights of my last year. Instead of only running errands and taking care of things, we were able to do some unique explorations, and I was able to introduce her to my family.

Regardless of whether you can speak or just write, regardless of whether you have an IQ of 160 or 60, we all have something to say that is worth hearing.

As part of her challenges, she does not speak very loud or clearly, but I could always understand her and relished in what she had to say. She often told me that she knew she was difficult to understand and, like our nation’s poet laureate Amanda Gorman, who also had a speech impediment, she preferred to write down her thoughts. She shared the following poem with me about her experiences during COVID-19, and I would like to share it with you.

Regardless of whether you can speak or just write, regardless of whether you have an IQ of 160 or 60, we all have something to say that is worth hearing, and I know firsthand that the world is a better place when we all are listening to each other. Please just open your heart to those you may perceive as different. I promise during this time and always, you will be surprised by the voids that can be filled.

At the beginning of this Pandemic, I didn’t know what we were in for I didn’t know how long this would last How long we would all be isolated Why did this virus occur in the first place? Not being able to see our family, friends, loved ones Celebrate special occasions, being there in person for one another I feel sad each time I hear someone has Covid or another illness I know for a fact that we have all experienced loneliness, anxiety, depression, being afraid, etc. We ask ourselves when will this ever end? None of us know This is what I do know I know that we will overcome this somehow We all have to believe & hope that it will get better Praying helps This could be a whole lot worse Thank goodness we all have each other Many people have no one We have a roof over our heads Several people live on the streets Many of us are healthy, but a majority of us are dealing with health issues I feel very fortunate that we recite the Misheberach prayer every night. It has healed many, others not. There are several family members that are in the hospital, recovering from surgery going for treatments, etc. Still, we have to be grateful for what we have No one said this was going to be easy As hard as this has been for everyone, it has had many perks We have Mindful Moments, Minyan, Shabbat Services, classes, etc. We can take walks & enjoy the sunshine, spend time with the family & friends we have Take road trips, play games, go through your closets & throw out stuff we no longer need Cook new dishes, watch movies on Netflix We have a new President & Vice President I try to look at the bright side of things I know not everyone can do that & that’s ok. I wish for the best for everyone I want y’all to know that I feel very blessed to know all of you We all have to stick together. Amen. This Self-Advocacy Spotlight was reprinted with permission. The original essay by Michelle Simon and poem by Susan Berch ran in 2020 Hindsight, a book published in May 2021 by the Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta.

This Self-Advocacy Spotlight was reprinted with permission. The original essay by Michelle Simon and poem by Susan Berch ran in 2020 Hindsight, a book published in May 2021 by the Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta.

Susan Berch is very involved in the Uniting for Change Leadership Collective and has worked at Jewish Family and Children’s Services for 28 years.

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