5 years ago csegal 0
Five years ago today, my world changed forever.
But, I didn’t know it yet.
Today is Purim: the holiday of secret miracles. What many don’t realize is that secret miracles aren’t only a thing of the past, but still very much of the present.
As a child, I was the shyest person that anyone had ever met. The kid who would hide behind her dad and bury her face in her mom’s dress at the age of twelve years old at family events? *Waves* Hi, yeah, that would be me. I was the kid who literally had to be forced to socialize with other kids after gallons of tears were spilled and who always felt more comfortable sitting with the adults than with those her own age.
I was the introvert. I read over a hundred pages daily, soaking up books left and right. Many times, I would prefer reading or playing Wii by myself to having a playdate. I enjoyed the ease of not having to conform to others or their needs, and I never really thought about being one of those people who others look up to for inspiration or someone who others are in awe of–it just wasn’t who I was.
Five years ago, at a Purim event at my shul, my rabbi’s daughter approached me with a mishloach manot. It was a tzedaka box with candy inside, and on the outside of the jar, there was some kind of logo that I had never seen before. She invited me to some kind of meeting for Jewish teens, and I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into, but I decided to try it out. The logo on that tzedaka box, I would later come to know, was for something called CTeen, and it would come to mean the world to me in the upcoming years, but I would have never been able to guess the enormity of its impact.
Two weeks later, at the event, we planted flowers and decorated pots for kids in hospitals. A couple of weeks after, we delivered them and I felt a fire ignite inside of me. It felt like I had been missing something, and I had finally found it. I was with other teens, trying to help the community and learning about fundamental Jewish values. But, unlike at camp and Hebrew School, I wasn’t just learning–I was experiencing.
Freshman year eventually came along, and we had our next event, where I signed up to be a leader. It sounded fun, and being a creative person, I thought that it would be a good way to embrace a side of myself that I had always yearned to discover.
I had no idea.
My first International Shabbaton came along, and I was amazed by everything–mostly by how easily teens socialized and made new friends. I couldn’t grasp the concept of coming up to someone and saying, “Hi, I’m Claire from Philadelphia. What’s your name and where are you from?” I had gone to a camp for years where we went on a trip to New York each summer and sang “Am Yisroel Chai” in the middle of Manhattan, but the true feeling and emotion behind the same words that came out of these teenagers’ mouths hit me in a way nothing else had before.
I knew I had to come back. And, not only that, but I needed to be one of those people that others looked up to in awe, just like I had to so many others.
When sophomore year came around, I worked on doing just that. I participated more in the leader chat and shared my ideas, and eventually I wound up in multiple group chats, where I would unknowingly meet my closest friends.
Right before junior year, my mom told me something: our director was making aliya. I was happy for her, but one concern immediately rose up in my mind: What about our CTeen chapter? After a meeting with my rabbi, it was decided–my mom and I would run our chapter. What?! But I was a junior in high school! My mom is a full-time working parent of three kids! I was skeptical that it would work, but I had the mindset that G-d knew what He was doing, even if it seemed like He had gone crazy.
And, that basically leads me up to today. I am now a senior, and I have just come back home from my last CTeen International Shabbaton as a teenager. I have my Female Leader of the Year trophy by my side, and as I look back to where I have come from, I simply can’t believe it. At this shabbaton, I reunited with at least thirty of my friends. The kids in my chapter had the best time ever, and their smiles and energy made me the happiest person in the world. I have come so far in my CTeen journey–from decorating pots to writing for CTeen Connection and winning Female Leader of the Year–and I still have a ways to go. CTeen has taught me that once you start something, there is no end to your journey. Perhaps that is why I am BH spending the next year in Israel, before going to college–because there is so much more that I need to know, learn, and experience. I have looked up to CTeen seniors ever since I was a freshman, hoping that I would, one day, be able to be as proud and outspoken as they are. My friends now look up to me like I did to those seniors, and I am honored–I really didn’t do anything. We really have no idea how much we affect others. We can change the lives of hundreds for the better without having a clue. But someday, someone may tell you how you influenced their life for the better. Someday, someone may share that secret with you about how you were their miracle. Someday, you may be your own Purim, your own secret miracle.
And then it will all start again.