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Window To Our World

Ode to Volunteers

January 27, 2010

As the dust settled and the sun rose from below
A perfect world emerged where happiness did glow
A recent revolution overtook all humanity
Shaking the very foundations of the world's past insanity

Peering down from above with satisfaction and pride
The Creator wished to know who to credit for turning the tide
Unexpectedly the answer came from a small home faraway
A special child's smile gave the secret away

Pieces of the puzzle appeared high and low
As acceptance, love and friendship became the familiar flow
"Father in Heaven," the child's prayers He hears
“Thank You for remembering me when You created volunteers”

Hurt, But Not Broken

January 24, 2010

Dear Master of the Universe,

Today, You broke me.
My heart (and my back).
Today, G‑d, You outdid yourself.
You have given me Sheina,
(a special needs child),
Thank You very much.
Did I ever complain to You?
Did I ever say “take her back”?
You have tested me and You have tested me.
I think I passed, maybe not with flying colors -
but passed nonetheless.
It's her seizures
that I would like to discuss with you today.
They are always frightening.
Unfortunately, I think I have sort of become accustomed to them.
Any loud "bang" -
Uh oh, Sheina.
I run,
she is on the floor blue and shaking...
But Master of the Universe!
What happened??
What did You do today?
The regular seizures,
weren't good enough to break me???
Not enough that You once gave her a seizure while I was washing her in the shower??
Not enough that during her recent seizure she fell flat on her face and lost a tooth???
(Which by the way, we are still going for appointments to take care of,
And You know how much I hate appointments.)
Yes, I must admit You were always kind enough to at least make sure someone else was home with us.
Whether it was to pass her a pillow, to time the length of it,
or to lift her out of the bath.
Someone to help me carry her into bed.
Or just someone to be with me, to stop my shaking...
Do I thank You for this consideration?
I guess so. I Thank You, G‑d.
Oh, I would also like to thank You for the time that You made me look at her
at the exact second I did,
and so managed to catch her in mid-air.
That was something!
I never kvetch to You about her.
(Okay, maybe I do, once in while…)
But I take it.
I call it a "G‑d-made Problem."
Those problems, we just take.
We don't have a choice.
But today, G‑d Almighty, You broke me!
Not only was I home alone,
(yes, the two-and-a-half year old was home, You try getting her to help...)
But Master of the Universe,
Such a WHAM?!
I hear the scratch of the chair -
run to the room...
find her flat on her face, in a pool of blood,
blue and shaking....
I know not to move her,
but hey, I've got to see where she is bleeding from.
Forget timing her,
(if she convulses for too long we need to call 911.)
I grab a towel, put it under her face.
Her hair is in blood, I think I should tie it back.
While trying to support her head, so she doesn't hurt herself more,
I ask, beg, cajole and finally yell for Two-and-a-Half-year-old to please get me
a ponytail holder.
Two-and-a-Half-year-old: "Why is it red? Where does Sheina have a boo-boo?"
The more I yelled, the slower she went.
Then, knock, knock, knock, knock....
I'm thinking, "Yes, maybe someone came home to help me."
For by now Sheina is very agitated.
I'm nervous.
I don't want her choking on the blood.
Knock, knock, knock, knock...
I cannot get up to get the door, for I'm supporting her head,
watching her, trying to get her out of the blood,
cleaning her as much as I can...
and trying to answer Two-and-a-Half-year-old's ninety-nine questions as calmly as possible.
(She is traumatized as it is.)
Between clenched teeth I asked Two-and-a-Half-year-old to answer the door.
"No," she says.
Gritting my teeth,
"You must answer the door...."
She starts to go... then comes back...
"I scared."
It's the neighbor's kid, he left his ball here earlier.
Now Sheina wants to get up, to go to bed.
She needs support; otherwise she will fall again and hurt herself.
But, You see, Master Planner,
I don't really have the strength to lift her by myself...
I guess You wanted to show me that I do,
but did You forget it's so hard on my back?...
Painstakingly, I managed to clean her, change her clothes,
support her up, walk her to bed, change her diaper...
Oh no, Sheina is about to fall again,
Wham! half on, half off the bed.
All the while, mind You,
Two-and-a-Half-year-old barraging me with her string of questions...
Swollen lip,
deformed cheek,
bloody nose.
Only You, G‑d, know the extent of the damage inside
her mouth.
And only You G‑d, know the extent of the damage inside
my heart.
Today You have broken me.
Thank you.
Yours truly,
Your faithful soldier.

P.S. Tonight before I went to sleep, as usual I began my "Prayer Before Retiring at Night," thinking of anyone I might need to forgive.

As usual, I began, "Master of the universe! I hereby forgive anyone who has angered or vexed me, or sinned against me, either physically or financially, against my honor or anything else that is mine...." etc, etc.

I then stopped in mid-sentence. I thought about today's harrowing experience and started again.

Master of the Universe, I hereby forgive. (Period.)

You build my character.

You make me stronger.

Thank you.


Your loyal servant.


Sheina had her next seizure in bed. The perfect place to have it.

Thank you.

A World of a Difference

Your Vote Is Needed

January 18, 2010

I am sitting on an airplane, with my two best friends, trying to write down on paper all the thoughts in my head and all the emotions in my heart. We are on our way back from Detroit, where we spent three amazing days with other volunteers from all over the USA and Canada. This unforgettable experience will stay with me for a long time to come. What I learned, witnessed and experienced has changed my perception of myself and of the world forever.

You see, I have been volunteering for Friendship Circle for a while now. Yes, it’s inspiring; yes, it’s fun; yes, I have made a relationship with my best buddy, Hannah P. But I always considered it as a little thing that a little girl in a little town does. It fills my weeks with meaning and my after-school hours with an altruistic project. It teaches me lessons and affords me friendships.

Spending this weekend with seventy other volunteers, hearing from inspirational speakers, and being immersed in a surreal atmosphere made me realize something else. This is BIG. Bigger than big. I am part of a revolution!

Our parents grew up in a world where children who looked different were locked up for life. A world where a child with disabilities was a burden on everyone. A world where siblings were ashamed of talking about their poor little brother. My peers and I are changing this reality. Our generation of teenagers is ushering in a new era where special children are indeed special. Eighty Friendship Circles around the world are transforming eighty communities. 11,000 volunteers around the globe are becoming ambassadors of change for these precious souls. From Paris to Pittsburgh, from Ashkelon to Atlanta, from Sydney to San Francisco, little girls and boys like me are making a world of a difference.

And now, so can you. Yes, this week every one of you can take a little action that will make a world of a difference for thousands of children with special needs. Chase Bank is granting one million dollars to a charity at the end of this week. The charity with the most votes on Facebook will be given a million dollars to further their cause. You have the power to bring a million smiles to thousands of children by making Friendship Circle of Michigan the winning charity.

So, I will go back to share exciting memories with my best buddies here, and you go ahead to and make your voice heard.

Thank you

Related Articles: Organization Changes World Through Special Friendships, Sole Jewish Finalist in Online Contest, Special Needs Organization Competing for $1 Million Grant

Gone Fishing

A Friends @ Home Visit

January 17, 2010

It’s a sunny day here in Charlotte but I'm feeling anything but calm. I’m on the way to observe Adam’s second visit, as he is a new volunteer. Adam has agreed to push up the visit so he can still make his basketball game tonight and Steven’s Mom (Steven is Adam’s special friend) has postponed their Aquarium trip till later this afternoon. I just got off the phone with Adam to make sure he has the directions straight, as I’d hate for any of the carefully scheduled hour and a half visit to be wasted in a car!

But now that I’m on my way, I’m thinking, “Is this really helping? Are they just doing me a favor?” I usually only go to the first visit and then for a check-in later on but last week I had two visits scheduled for the same time and obviously couldn’t be at both. Not wanting to cancel, I told Adam and Steven that I’d come for the second visit instead. Now though, I feel bad I didn’t go last time. What if the schedule conflicts were because they didn’t have a good time last week? Ok, I know that’s not true, they told me it was fine and Steven had a good time, but still….

Steven is an 8 year old boy with autism, but in Friendship Circle’s world, that just means he’s unique, like all of us, and that his special talents and abilities make him outstanding. I turn into the neighborhood, and pull up to the house. Adam’s car is already there! As I’m about to turn off the car I see something which makes me stop. I suddenly regret all my previous thoughts and thank G‑d for giving me the chance to see this myself. There’s Steven, running ahead of his new friend Adam, with a fishing rod in hand and a smile from ear to ear.

Not wanting to miss anything, I drive around to the other side of the neighborhood pond (I’m kicking myself that I didn’t bring my camera). I park and get out of the car to watch as Adam casually and comfortably introduces Steven to the world of fishing. From where I’m standing I can see them but they can’t see me and frankly, I’m glad because I have tears in my eyes. I stand there for a bit just watching the two of them talk and laugh, and cast the fishing rod. One thing is clear, to Adam, Steven isn’t a “disabled” child who needs sympathy, Steven is a friend with plenty to offer!

Related Articles: Organization Changes World Through Special Friendships, Sole Jewish Finalist in Online Contest, Special Needs Organization Competing for $1 Million Grant

Why I Volunteer

January 17, 2010

Every morning I wake up, take a shower, get dressed, and drive myself to school. I know opposites, my left and right, the alphabet, and simple addition. Sounds easy right? Wrong. For some people in this world these are hurdles they are unable to climb over. Whether they need a little push or they need to be picked up, we need to reach out and help them.

As a Jew and as a fellow human being, it is critical that we all help one another succeed in this world. There is a statement in the Torah that says “saving a life is like saving the entire world.” I believe that although I cannot correct all wrongs and change the world with the stroke of my hand, the least I can do is help one child. Whether they just need help with their homework or just want a friend, I would like to be there for them.

I chose to volunteer for Friendship Circle because my friend Hannah has been doing this for a while in Philadelphia and I was always envious of the opportunity she had. Over the summers, at camp, she would relay various stories and anecdotes about her experiences in this program. I would see her writing to her 'special' friend and I remember wishing I had such an opportunity. The most amazing part of this program is that Hannah, and now I, walk out of our 'special' friend's home not only feeling that we helped someone but with something we never thought: We leave with a new friendship.

In our camp cabin, Hannah had pictures of her buddy posted on her wall by her bed. He was not just someone she had to visit once a week or once a month, he was someone she looked forward to spending time with because the two benefited equally from one another.

Related Articles: Organization Changes World Through Special Friendships, Sole Jewish Finalist in Online Contest, Special Needs Organization Competing for $1 Million Grant

Friendship Circle is today's fastest growing Jewish organization for children with special needs. With over 76 locations worldwide Friendship Circle has cultivated friendships between 5,000 special children and close to 11,000 teen volunteers.

The unique vision of the Rebbe that "none of us are complete unless all of us are included" provides our motivation to bridge the gap between families of children with special needs and the general community while providing today’s teens with a productive and enjoyable focus.

Window To Our World, presented by Friendship Circle International, will share with you the inside perspective of special children, their families, volunteers, community members and Friendship Circle coordinators who bring them together.

For more information, please visit the Friendship Circle website.

Click here for an insightful video about special needs children.

Moderated by Rochel Groner, Friendship Circle International
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