Being Jewish means that we must love one another equally because we are all small fragments of one huge whole.
What I learned from my Community Service
Since October, I have spent every Thursday afternoon volunteering for Friendship Circle at their sports and swim program at the YMCA. Friendship Circle is a Jewish Organization run by the Chabad that helps children with autism and special needs. This program gives these kids the opportunity to have a friend and socialize and play in a fun setting designed just for them. Every volunteer is paired up with the same kid every week. You quickly grow attached to each other and become real friends.
Friendship Circle has taught me numerous things. The first thing I learned at Friendship Circle is how important it is to give back to the community. My Thursday afternoons at the YMCA are not about me. They are about these extraordinary children and about making them feel special and important. I swim, play basketball, soccer, and run around with them. Every week is a new experience, and it teaches me new ways to be a better individual. Without volunteers, this program would not be able to continue, and these children would not be able to interact and learn like they currently have the ability to do. I’ve also noticed first-hand how many people it takes to make this program successful. If a volunteer does not show up for a few days or a week, it has a major effect on the operation. It causes stress for all involved, especially the kids. These kids have special needs; consistency is very important. That proves to me that I am one small piece of a larger puzzle and if one piece is missing, the puzzle is not complete.
I also learned that you can never judge a book by its cover. While these kids have disabilities holding them back, they are just as capable as everyone else and deserve to be treated that way. The girl I am responsible for, Jules, has autism. Despite this, she is still one of the smartest people I know. She isn’t verbal, but she always knows how to make me understand what she wants and how she is feeling. She comes in every week with a smile on her face and her arms open for a hug. She’s always excited when she sees me and makes me feel like I make a difference in her day, and I never want to let her down. That feeling has taught me responsibility and awareness of other people’s feelings, not just my own. I feel great knowing Thursday means so much to Jules.
I am not only a role model to her, but also a friend. I know now that a person is not just what they look like on the outside. You must look deep within a person to see who they truly are. I’m in admiration of these children who don’t let their disability define them. They believe they can do whatever they set their minds to. That notion has made me more accepting of others.
Another thing I learned from Friendship Circle is how to be a teacher, mentor, and a role model to others. I try to teach Jules right from wrong, and how to socialize with others. It’s important for her to learn and is one of the reasons why her parents bring her to Friendship Circle. I’ve noticed a real difference in her behavior since I started in October. Her talking has increased each week, and she is more open to different activities then she was before. I’ve noticed how important I am to her and my impact upon her.
Friendship Circle has taught me how to be a better person and the true meaning of mitzvah. I learned to have patience, acceptance, empathy, and compassion for others. I’ve also learned how to be a good role model and to always give back to others. I look forward to Friendship Circle, and I wouldn’t give it up for the world! I plan to continue Friendship Circle for many years to come. I know that no matter what happens, I will always be a friend to Jules and Jules will always be a friend to me. I can thank Friendship Circle for giving me this opportunity.