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Camp. It Was Lots of Fun.

07/02/2015

With seven weeks off for summer, I thought I’d take an opportunity to work a summer camp. Maybe I’m pining for my youthful days at good old Camp Hapitok. Or maybe I thought I’d get a paid vacation and a chance to commune with nature. Camp Hapitok was so many years ago, and I don’t want to do the math because it’s the kind of math problem that makes me a little bit sad and a lot bit shocked. I remember very little about that camp, but I do remember that at age16, my number one goal was to kiss a hot counselor. This time around, my goal for camp was more altruistic. This time, I wanted to impact somebody’s life in a positive way. I wanted to be like Julie, the super awesome cruise director of not The Love Boat, but Camp Lotsafun.

So what qualifies me to work at a camp for children and adults with disabilities? Having gone to camp before? Being a teacher? The desire to do it? The love I have for this population? Love of the outdoors? Being friends with the director? A willingness to sleep in a cabin, hike, dance badly in front of many people, sing karaoke loudly (also badly, with no social cushion of alcohol), and make beaded necklaces and bird feeders out of toilet paper rolls and peanut butter? Yes, all of the above.

Byron Katie has said, “I’m very clear that everyone in the world loves me, I just don’t expect them to realize it yet.” This was how I approached the somewhat nerve-wracking unknown of camp. Yes, I’d be older than all the counselors, but I figured they’d realize how much they love me eventually. And I long ago learned not to offer unsolicited advice to anyone, so I’d be set. Because I remember being in my early 20s and wishing that old lady would stop telling me what to do with my life. Nobody wants that, right? So I would not be that chick, no way. And the campers, well, my plan was to listen. Support. I’d work really hard to not interject my story. I’d listen and ask questions and follow the schedule and not lose any campers. Yes, goal number one, don’t lose anyone. Also make sure they bathe, don’t choke at mealtimes, use sunscreen, and drink enough water. Got it.

And I did do all those things. The session was much like what I expected. I hiked and swam and I sang Kenny Rogers songs loudly and badly and actually remembered I kinda like that guy’s music. I gave lots of high fives and hugs. I talked about important things like The Avengers, The Hulk, what it’s like to pay bills all the time, and 80’s music while waiting for sleep to come late at night. I caught and released 10 moths because one of my campers could not sleep knowing we had “flutterflies” in our cabin. I played a lot of games of Uno. I laughed the daily allotted amount for good health, as recommended by Psychology Today.com. I learned some hip hop dance moves. I slept very little and wished for stronger coffee. All as expected.

Here’s what I didn’t expect: How much my campers would teach me. As I do with my regular job as a teacher, I learned something very valuable from my campers, and all the campers: life, no matter what is going on, is to be appreciated, despite the challenges it offers. My guys, my campers, have real challenges. They have no privacy because they can’t take care of themselves. For some of them, walking is a very difficult. They always need to rely on the help of others. While I was thinking and planning very carefully what books to bring (not realizing there would be zero time or energy for reading), my guys packed nothing to occupy their minds at camp. They, unlike me, don’t have to read at night to calm the crazy monkey mind before being able to fall asleep. One of my campers, who is older than I am, packed a Step Into Reading book that I would probably give to one of my first grade students. For some reason, this made me very sad. Reading, writing, and sketching are so important to me, and I was assuming, like a 4-year old who thinks the whole world revolves around her, that not being able to read a book is such a sad, sad thing. But is it? These guys were happy. Fine. Appreciative. Smiling all the time. Chipper in the morning. Very chipper. Which made me wonder, what’s my issue? Why am I assuming my way is the best way? The right way? It’s human nature I guess.

Whenever I camp I come home with an appreciation for the things that make my life so great. My family, my dogs, my house, morning coffee and journal time, a bathroom that is only ten feet away and pretty clean most of the time.(except baseboards, but those don’t count).  Something else happened after this camp though. I realized that almost all of the stuff I worry about doesn’t really matter. Not my bank account balance, the money my credit card people keep wanting from me every month, the size of my jeans, or the wrinkles on my neck that I hate so much. My life is enough. I am enough. And in this life, what matters is not what you look like, or what you have, but how you make people feel. At the end of Camp Lotsafun, Session 1, I can say for sure that my campers felt listened to. Important. Valued. Nothing else matters. Session 2 is going to rock.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. 07/02/2015 8:30 pm

    You friend, are an amazing human being. The world is a better place for you. I love you. Let’s go get ‘me round two!

    • 07/02/2015 8:41 pm

      Ya baby, let’s kill it! In a good way, you know what I mean…

      • 07/03/2015 12:00 am

        …um that was let’s go get ’em…we don’t want any of the campers getting ‘me’ or ‘you’.hehe

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