I thought it was going to be a typical freelance project. I jotted down the name of the organization, their website and location, and called to make an appointment for the interview. I left myself exactly 45 minutes before my next meeting so that I wouldn't have to stay too long. I wanted to make sure we would cover ground quickly so that I could get my angle without wasting time on aimless chatting. I figured a good story line and a couple of strong quotes and I'd be finished.

But then I walked through the front door and what I thought, wanted and figured no longer mattered. Time stopped, reality (or the reality that I knew) stopped, my calendar stopped. The next three-quarters of an hour would be an experience I don't think I will ever forget.

I have been so busy lately that for a few minutes I couldn't figure out why I heard Chanukah music playing as I entered the building. Then, as the songs continued, I glanced at my calendar and discovered that in just a few weeks it will be Chanukah! Such a joyous celebration of victory for the Jewish people, and I had temporarily forgotten.

The truth is that upon entering those doors I suddenly realized that I had temporarily forgotten a lot of important things. And when you are always temporarily forgetting it ends up meaning that you never really remember. You become so busy that you don't focus on what is really important, what really counts.

But in this place that was simply impossible. It was back to basics. Actually, it was back to much less than basics. It was back to virtually nothing.

You see, for this interview I was sent to one of the rehabilitative centers in Israel for severely disabled and handicapped children. But these are not children that will one day be mainstreamed or integrated into society. These are children that will spend the rest of their lives in this place, for this has now become their home. This center is where they will live, and unfortunately, where most will die. For them, this is it.

The center itself is stunning. It is beautifully decorated with colorful pictures and displays everywhere. It has a top-quality staff and therapeutic activities. But then you look at the children, and they are simply heartbreaking. I couldn't really do my interview, because I was afraid to talk. I knew that if I opened my mouth I would start to cry. But more than what I felt for them, I was just utterly scared. All I could think was that this could happen to me. This could be my child. I was not immune. These were such severely deformed children, and yet in most cases, there was no reason to expect it. Most came from families with other healthy siblings, healthy parents, and were born from healthy pregnancies. But then something went terribly wrong. And regardless of what the diagnosis ultimately is, these children will always be utterly dependent on others to live. They cannot eat by themselves (40% in this particular place are fed intravenously), they cannot go to the bathroom by themselves, most can't even sit up alone and virtually none can stand.

It sounds so trite and insincere to say that when in such a situation you really appreciate what you have. But there is just no greater truth. You do. But I think it is more than being grateful for the fact that you are healthy. There is something about being in such a place that makes you aware of how warped our view of the world can be. What struck me most was that I felt so sorry for these children. But when I really thought about it, I couldn't understand why. They didn't appear to feel sorry for themselves. They didn't appear miserable. They didn't appear depressed. In fact, most seemed quite happy.

And what was even more amazing was how easy it was to make them happy. As the Chanukah music was played, I watched as their eyes literally lit up and they began to shake from side to side or move. Some began to groan in a loud but clearly pleasurable way. Others clapped their hands together with huge smiles across their faces.

And yet, as I watched their joy, all I wanted was to cry. Sure, a part of me wanted to cry because I felt so bad that they would never walk or run around or play like other children. But if I am honest, really honest with myself, I think a part of me was crying over the fact that the sound of music was never enough to make me so happy. A warm pat or loving smile was never enough to capture my full attention and bring me such joy. Simple pleasures such as looking at a beautiful picture or rubbing something soft is never enough to comfort me. And for these children it is. I felt sorry for them, but perhaps it is they who should feel sorry for me.

I live a wonderful, blessed life, thank G‑d. I have four beautiful and healthy children. I have a loving husband and great friends and work that I thoroughly enjoy. And yet, day after day I find something to complain about. I am too tired. The baby didn't sleep at night. The house is a mess. I was stuck in line at the bank for over an hour. My daughter won't stop whining…. And these things are enough to make me feel that my life is overwhelming. I can walk, talk, see, hear, think and do, and I still feel that my life is overwhelming.

And then I watch these children. They cannot do anything by themselves and therefore virtually cannot do anything. But they seem happy. Is it true that ignorance is bliss? Perhaps they are ignorant of much of what we consider the "pleasures" of life, but I think that it's more that they focus on what counts. They are happy because they are being taken care of. They are fed, bathed, changed, played with, spoken to and loved. And those are some pretty amazing things. But unfortunately few of us appreciate them.

At a certain point I glanced at my watch. I was late. I had spent too much time in this place and had almost missed my next appointment. I needed to run and interview and write and do it all by 1:30 when my kids would finish school and needed to be picked up. Suddenly I was stressed again and had to get back to the real world.

But for the first time I wasn't sure where that was.

Was it outside those doors, or was it exactly where I was standing? There wasn't a child in that room that seemed to know what it meant to be stressed, to feel pressured, to have a bad day. To them, all that apparently mattered was that the music was playing and that they were enjoying it. And in truth, I think that is really all that matters.

I walked out the front door a changed person, at least temporarily. I sincerely thanked G‑d for my health and for the health of my family. I decided to walk slowly to my next meeting as I tried to internalize the power of my experience. I knew I was late. I knew that it wasn't terribly professional. But in the scheme of things it just seemed pretty petty. Yes, I had probably annoyed some people, but as much as they may have been stressed, it wasn't the end of the world. Not moving, not speaking, not eating and not growing, that, as far as I had always thought, was the end of the world. And if for all these children it wasn't, then there was nothing I could possibly experience that could be.

As I walked I was reminded of a beautiful story. It is a story of how a tzaddik, a holy man, was sitting with his disciples when a child with down syndrome passed by. As the child passed, the tzaddik stood up and greeted him with "Baruch Habbah." His students couldn't understand why, as this was a greeting generally reserved for other tzaddikim. One student finally had the courage to ask the tzaddik why he would address a child with such an honored greeting. The tzaddik explained that we are all brought into this world because we have a mission to complete. Many of us need to come back into this world many times until we fulfill our duties through our Torah study and mitzvot. However, the souls of tzaddikim, of the purely righteous, come into this world with no benefit to themselves, only for the sake of others. They have already completed their mission in this world. A handicapped child is such a soul. Because of his disability, he is unable to study Torah and perform mitzvot; so it must be he has already completely rectified himself. The only reason for him to be here is to help others achieve their purpose.

"So this is why I stood up for the boy," the tzaddik explained. "He was a complete tzaddik who is only in this world to help those around him."

Today I merited to not only meet one tzaddik, but to meet 65. Who could have known that 45 minutes could be so life changing?