created at: 2011-06-06
*re-printed with permission from JCRC’s 66th Annual Meeting, June 9th, 2010

Hi, my name is Trevor Hass.  I’m a junior at Arlington High School and belong to Temple Isaiah in Lexington.  The past few months have been somewhat of a blur.  I have been preoccupied with the SAT, AP History Exam, and tennis after school every day.  However, as part of the Isaiah TELEM team, I went to Derby House, part of Minuteman ARC in Concord with other friends every Tuesday night and had an amazing time working with adults with special needs.

When I first signed up, I was a bit apprehensive and unsure of exactly what to expect.  Working with people with special needs had always interested me, yet actually immersing myself into Derby House seemed foreign and unnatural.  I’m usually a pretty gregarious person, yet when I walked into the house I was timid and reserved.

After a few obligatory introductions, I realized something.  The residents here are no different than anyone else.  There’s no reason to bottle up my bad puns.  Everyone in my group started to act like themselves and we were bonding with the adults in no time. 

In one of the TELEM classes designed to prepare us for our work at Derby House,  we did an exercise to determine our own personality types, and this exercise helped us work towards accomodating our new friends’ individual needs.  One resident, Lisa, was a tremendous puzzle-maker.  She put pieces together about four times as fast as I could.  Another resident, Sarah, really enjoyed playing the card game “War,” so during most visits we enjoyed a healthy rivalry.  The battles were grueling and sometimes they took days, even weeks, to finish.  The most valuable lesson I learned was that each of the residents has something special to offer

I also came to realize just how much the residents appreciated us visiting them. While it was clear they appreciated our visits, we began to cherish their company as well.  After a one-week absence, I was overjoyed to see Meghan’s radiant smile again as I walked through the Derby doors.  Joni’s incessant singing was a welcoming gesture and made everyone laugh.  We had a superb time bonding with the residents and really got to know them on a personal level as the weeks went by.

One week, we worked together  to knit blankets for the homeless in Haiti.  The residents understood that their actions had a lasting impact on the lives of others.  It was a great feeling for us to see the smiles on their faces as they knit the blankets.

The mutual, endearing relationships we developed individually and collectively over the next few months would prove to be very special.  On our last visit, we all gathered together and shared stories, sang songs, and gave out awards.  Midway through the evening, I was “auctioned off.”  One resident, Katherine, bought me for an imaginary $22,000.  The fact that she cared so much about me made me feel great about myself, that I really made an impact in their lives.

When we were about to leave, Brian, a resident with down-syndrome started to cry.  He hugged all of us multiple times and was visibly upset.  We tried to console him and tell him that we would see him again in the fall.  This wasn’t a permanent goodbye, just a temporary one, merely a “L’hitraot,” see you soon, in Hebrew. We gave one last round of hugs and went on our way. 

Though I wasn’t crying like Brian, I was pretty sentimental myself.  It was definitely a bittersweet moment.  It marked the end of a special few months- a period of bonding, friendship, and togetherness, an experience I will never forget.

Since this speech was delivered at JCRC’s 66th Annual Meeting in June of 2010, Trevor Haas has continued to participate in TELEM’s Special Needs track partnership with Temple Isaiah in Lexington. Stay tuned for a future update from Trevor who has spent the last year learning and growing alongside his friends from Minuteman ARC.