“I love you!” exclaims Amanda, as she exits the room. It is April 2019 and I have just met my match at our highly anticipated Friend 2 Friend introduction. The dedicated team at Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters had completed its search for 32-year-old Amanda, whose zest for life is best captured through her love for wiggling: her signature hip-twisting dance move that is all the more fun when done in unison.

Before even having met, it was apparent to all involved that Amanda and I were an aligned pairing: two dance-loving, Broadway-belting, chit-chatting adults so well-attuned that we even share the same birthday (Amanda being seven years my senior). From our very first meeting, it was Amanda’s unabashed expression of love that set the tone for our bond.

During our first year of friendship, Amanda and I were fortunate to spend time together pre-COVID. Our get-togethers ranged from dance classes to movie screenings to lunch outings at Amanda’s beloved Panera Bread. Of course, each gathering would not be complete without answering Amanda’s favorite question: “When are we meeting next?”

Then came 2020 and we were faced with the barriers presented to so many during the pandemic. Amanda, being her extroverted self, faced the reality of being distanced from her performance groups, sports teams and family. Encountering profound shifts in my own life as well, I knew that supporting one another would be more vital than ever.

As we adjusted to our altered daily lives, Amanda and I found new ways to connect. Our movie theater outings shifted to FaceTime movie nights and our Zumba classes transitioned to virtual dance parties, featuring Amanda’s signature “wiggle” move. When safe to do so, we were then able to paint and picnic outdoors, celebrate Hanukkah by spinning dreidels on the sidewalk and soak in the joy of spring with a game of hopscotch and soccer.

However, the greatest gift to come out of the pandemic was the addition of impromptu phone calls. No matter the day of the week, Amanda and I began to see one another as confidants who could count on each other in moments of joy as well as times of darkness. The ringing of my phone followed by a “Hi, Halle!” meant more to me than words can express. What had begun as a volunteer commitment with suggested guidelines had blossomed into so much more.

Recalling when I first inquired about becoming a Friend 2 Friend volunteer, I remember my desire to connect with new people and build meaningful relationships in my post-college life. However, I might have overlooked the parallels that would be illuminated regarding my Great Aunt Marcia Rosen, who I sadly never had the chance to meet. She had lived through America’s transitional era as a person with developmental disabilities, experiencing the opposite extremes of institutionalization as a youngster and later group homes as a middle-aged adult.

In learning more about Marcia’s past, I have become all the more honored to be part of Amanda’s present and future inner circle, consisting of her family, group home community and myself. Looking ahead, my enduring vision for our friendship is that Amanda feels valued for being the capable, generous, reliable, impactful friend she has been to me throughout the last two years.

Thank you to JBBBS for inviting me into its community with such warmth. Last, but not least, thank you to Amanda and her parents for welcoming me into their lives. I look forward to a lifetime of boisterous laughter, heartfelt talks, shared experiences and wiggles!

Learn more about how JBBBS changes lives here. Apply to volunteer here!

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