More Than an Ordinary Sunday
Walking through those doors on that first Sunday, I was nervous. My senses were overwhelmed by the brightness of the lobby and the sounds of laughter ricocheting off the walls. My hands shook. I felt new and strange, even though my life had always revolved around this kind of work. Unbeknownst at the time, I had actually entered an alternate universe. In this venue, everyone worked together in perfect harmony and peace, creating a “utopian society” for all who wished to be a part of it. On one of the many doors, I saw a sign boldly proclaiming “Volunteer Lounge” and I walked into the room. There, as well as in the other rooms of the building, I was slowly taught how to be a human in this new society called Friendship Circle.
Once given a nametag, I was introduced to the boy who I was to work with for the year. The idea was that I was supposed to befriend him, mentor him, and help him to have fun. Or so I thought. In reality, that is what he, and the other children, did for me. I checked the schedule— a conveniently placed sticker given to all volunteers. It said, “12:00- music in the gym”. It didn’t occur to me that I wasn’t aware of where the gum was located; I simply followed the flow of people into an overly crowded elevator. As the elevator went down, I made an effort to converse with the boy who I knew next to nothing about. “Hi Jake, I’m Jenna,” I tried/ When that solicited no response, I made another attempt. “Are you excited to be here today?” He looked up. The elevator came to a halt and everyone stepped out.
We walked over to the set of doors before the gym, and Jake started to yank me away. “Come on, it’s time for music, let’s go in before they start.” He pulled away further. It was then that I realized a few things. First of all, Jake really didn’t want to go in the gym. And secondly, I didn’t know how to handle it. The schedule said that we should be in the gym, what was I supposed to do if my “buddy” didn’t want to go in?
I gave up on pulling him into the room and asked, “What do you want to do?” I tried to relax and gave him a broad smile. That was it, what I was missing—a simple muscle reflex that took almost no effort on my part. The rest of the day went smoothly.
Another Sunday, while tentatively playing with some puppets, it dawned on me that my hesitance was due to a fear of being laughed at. In today’s society, we are taught the importance of fitting in, thus squelching our creativity. But it’s okay to be imaginative; people have become famous for sharing their unique ideas.
About two months into the program, I stumbled upon another discovery: the true meaning of friendship. A real friend is the person you can count on to give you respect, understand that you need to be loved just the way you are, and make you smile when you are having a bad day. Everyone deserves to have at least one person that they can call a friend.
Every week that I volunteer, I come out with a new take on life and a new lesson learned from my adventures. Apply these lessons—a task much larger than I could have ever imagined—has positively impacted my existence. When walking through the halls, I make a point of smiling and saying “hello” to fellow students. I have realized that I am comfortable being myself—even if it means that I act foolish, or dress in my own style. And that our differences make us the special, interesting people we are.
I could have learned these morals elsewhere; I can find them in books, or hear about them on the internet, but experiencing something firsthand is much more effective than just reading about it. Volunteering at Friendship Circle has been molding me into the more confident, respectful person that I want to be. It turns out that when you brighten other people’s lives, you end up brightening your own too.