Evening of Recognition, 2016
When I started working with Circle of Friends in 7th grade, I went in with the expectation that I was there to help other people. That was the whole point of the mitzvah project, right? But after I got the required 18 hours for my bat mitzvah, I continued going to Circle of Friends. I probably continued because Freida’s gentle and pointed encouragement, or maybe I was inspired by Susan’s warm smile and obvious commitment. 6 years later, I’m still baking cookies and doing arts & crafts every month at Sunday Circle. Susan recently asked me why I stayed with Circle of Friends for all these years. I gave it some thought, and I realized the main reason was because I had gained as much as I had given. It turns out that while I expected to help other people, the people at Circle of Friends also helped me. And the person who has given me the most is my friend Chloe.
I met Chloe when I started doing Home with Friends. To be honest, I was a little nervous to be set up in a one-on-one friendship. I wasn’t sure if I was ready or if I would do a good job. But with Freida’s encouragement and promises of the “sweetest little girl”, I felt like I could do it, and agreed to weekly home visits.
The first day I went to Chloe’s house, I rang the doorbell, and was immediately greeted by a smiling little girl. We introduced ourselves, she gave me a big hug, and then dragged me to the playroom. I quickly learned that she loved swimming, painting, and most of all, horses.
Since that first meeting, I have spent time with Chloe every week. It’s amazing to me how much a person can grow in just 3 years. I met Chloe when she was very young—just 7 years old. Throughout our time together, I have watched her blossom into a makeup lover, a horseback riding champion, a budding textaholic, and an Olympic swimmer. I’ve also watched her older brother Eddie mature into a kind, smart high-schooler, and I’ve seen her little brother Ben grow out of his diapers and into a total ladies man.
But I have also seen myself grow because of my relationship with Chloe. She has pushed me, and sometimes forced me, to try new things. Her constant positive energy and happiness have rubbed off on me in the best ways. I remember one time we went out to breakfast together, and she uninhibitedly approached every other kid in the restaurant to say hi and make new friends. And when I introduced her to the girls who will step into my shoes when I’m off at college next year, she greeted them with a big hug and warmly included them in our activities. Seeing her ease in approaching new people inspired me to be just that friendly and outgoing. This is just one example of the countless ways Chloe has pushed me to be a better version of myself. She has taught me to be more kind, patient, and compassionate. Through Chloe, I have gained a more loving heart.
Chloe throughout the years has also been my constant in the midst of all my teenage melodrama. If I got a bad grade on a test, had a fight with a friend, or had some stupid boy drama, going to the Kiev’s on the weekend has provided me with a little escape. Chloe’s house has been a kind of a bubble, a place where I could forget all of my worries and have fun with someone separate from those other, more stressful parts of my life. With Chloe, I can fully focus on doing the coolest jump on the trampoline or perfecting Chloe’s manicures and lipstick. Some people wish they could be 17 again, but 17 is overrated. I feel lucky that I got the chance to be 10 again, even if just for an hour each week.
When Susan approached me about speaking tonight, I was honored. I was excited to have the opportunity to share such a positive experience with all of you, and I knew I would have a lot to say. I thought, “This speech is going to be a piece of cake!” But if I’m being honest, it took me a while to actually sit down and write this speech. For some reason, every time I tried to think about what I wanted to say, I got this feeling of anxiety, similar to the feeling I got when writing my college applications. But soon enough, the cause of my problem became clear. I couldn’t bring myself to put my thoughts into words because doing so would mean reflecting on my time with Chloe, and reflecting on my time with Chloe implies that it’s ending. And though I’m not actually leaving for a couple months and I won’t be going very far, it won’t be the same next year, and I wasn’t ready to confront that. I’m still not ready. But despite the changes that will be happening in the next few months, I know that Chloe and I will stay close. She has become the little sister I never had, and the Kievs have become my second family. I feel so lucky to have known such a sweet and wonderful girl, and I can’t wait to see her continue to grow into a sweet and wonderful adult.