Circle of Friends Evening of Recognition
April 22, 2018
At the beginning of sixth grade I learned about the Circle of Friends organization. My brother had recently begun as a volunteer at the monthly friendship circles. Being that I was on the cusp of becoming a Bar Mitzvah and needed a service project to fulfill, I decided why not follow and work alongside my brother. I began by volunteering at the kids Sunday Circles and really enjoyed my time there. I left with a good feeling of having done a true Mitzvah. Soon, I began attending the young adult circles in the evening. My Bar Mitzvah came and passed. Like most children, or at the time fresh young adults, I assumed that I would close this chapter of my life and move on to different things. Over the following months, however, I did not stop being involved. In fact, I increased the amount of time I spent with the organization. I took on new tasks in addition to monthly circles and events. I got involved in the home with friends program which was fairly small at the time, during my last year of middle school. This was unprecedented for a teen with my personality. I was very shy and stayed close within my little circle of friends. I could never picture myself having a playdate with a special needs teen my age. I was scared, naive, and dead set against putting myself in such an uncomfortable situation. I’m forever grateful that I mustered the courage to go through with it. Freida matched me with Sam, a boy, a couple years younger than I and only a few miles away. Accompanied by my mother and Freida, we had our first playdate.
It was really awkward. He was shy and so was I. We were introduced and were told to go outside and “hang out.” He did not want me there and neither did I want to be there. This was not out of hate or disgust; we shared these feelings because we were shy and lost. Over the next few weeks my mom would drive me over to Sam’s house and only out of ignorance and discomfort I dreaded it. I didn’t know what to do during our play time and I could tell he couldn’t wait for me to leave. I was sad and ashamed, and unlike the Sunday Circles I left feeling empty.
But then a miracle happened. One day, as we sat on the floor in Sam’s bedroom making small talk and playing with Hess toy trucks waiting for my mom to pick me up, my eye caught sight of a plastic lightsaber. I picked up the saber and pointing it in a safe, playful, way, recited a line from Darth Vader, “Luke, I am your father!” For the first time since I met him, I saw Sam smile and even laugh. We broke out into a lightsaber duel. I left his house that day feeling really happy. For the next four years I kept having playdates with Sam, doing something different every time. We built with legos, wrestled, played detective, and of course had lightsaber battles. As we got older, we expanded our activities: from movies to biking, spending time with one of my new best friends became an absolute blast. We both really look forward to our time together.
Even though I will be leaving for college in August, we will continue to stay in touch and and get together when I come home on school breaks. Sam is forever my friend.
I want to thank Freida and the Hecht family for all the dedication and wonderful events they have organized through Circle of Friends. Being a part of this unique organization has truly helped me grow as an individual and allowed me to impact others in ways I did not know I could.. Thank you to all those who participate and make our community truly special!
It is with great pleasure that Alyssa and I welcome Abigail Ross, Sydney Panzer, and Jason Hyman to the new leadership of Circle of Friends at Staples High School.