My belief in Jesus Christ has given me hope and opportunities beyond my wildest dreams. Growing up I was a nervous kid, fearful of having responsibilities that I was asked to perform, even simple ones. I thought I didn’t have the ability to complete the tasks. Even worse, I was often overlooked by authority figures to be given the duties in the first place. In my mind, they were confirming what I already believed to be true: I was too inadequate to take on responsibilities.
My Christian walk began in the summer of 1989. After watching a TV Evangelist for a few weeks, I gave my life to Jesus. The timing was crucial. At the time, my mother was in an assisted-living facility. I come from a Jewish background, and I didn’t have the courage to confide my newfound religious beliefs to my mother who was in the last stage of her life. My mother died that November, a week before Thanksgiving. Shortly before the holiday, I bought a ticket to have a Thanksgiving meal with her. That celebration never happened. I believe in my heart that when Jesus came into my life that summer, He was letting me know that He was going to take care of me and guide me throughout the rest of my life. It would have been extremely difficult for me to go forward without my mom and having my faith supported me at this critical time.
Several years later, I had another pivotal and faith-based experience. I remember being in a gloomy mood on the train, when I looked up and saw a poster advertising Compeer Philadelphia. The sign grabbed my attention because I was a volunteer for the organization a decade earlier. My experience with the non-profit was extremely rewarding; I only left to concentrate on my studies. After attending some college, I did not return to Compeer, thinking my experience a second time around would pale in comparison to that wonderful time in my life. But as I looked at the poster that day, I could not ignore a feeling deep within me – a sensation that I believe was Jesus convicting me, through the poster, to go back to Compeer join the organization again as a volunteer.
With my faith in Jesus as my foundation, I returned to the program. It was a great experience again! I found the staff to be as supportive as they had been in the past, giving me responsibilities to perform (and perform well!) and even asking me to write about my Compeer experience for a book the organization was going to publish. My story, “The Place I Was Meant To Be”, was published and highlighted the ways in which God played a role in my work at Compeer, beginning with my work as a volunteer, helping individuals, like myself, whom had been isolated from society. My work at Compeer launched my writing career, allowed me to see that professionals had confidence in me, and helped me to heal from beliefs I carried with me as a child – namely that I was inadequate. Working at Compeer a second time, I took giant leaps forward in my mental health recovery.
My time at Compeer was instrumental in my obtaining a role at the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS). Compeer emphasizes community inclusion, a core principle of DBHIDS. Moreover, after reading my selection in the Compeer book, my cousin Ann, while in her 90s, was determined to have a Compeer affiliate in her city of Sarasota, Florida. My cousin actually sprung up the program in her city, despite her age and not being a mental health professional. Today Compeer Sarasota is established and has both an adult program and a children’s program. Ann and I participate on their advisory board. I do so by conference call at their monthly meetings. Compeer Sarasota has the potential of serving children and adults for generations to come.
I truly believe that had I ignored the calling I felt that day on the train, I would have missed the great experience I had the second time around at Compeer, I may not have been hired by DBHIDS, and Compeer Sarasota would not have existed. My faith continues to serve me in a number of areas, from supporting the homeless by ministering to them with an organization called Sunday Breakfast Mission and speaking to individuals about my service to Jesus, to teaching Sunday school and touching as many lives as I can to spread the word that faith can help individuals recover and cope with mental health challenges. Growing up, I could not handle responsibilities well, but with Jesus on my side, I am able to take on tasks and see them through.