Updated: Sep 24, 2018
Hi everyone!! Like Lucien & Dittus, I also spent the last week volunteering at Adult Vacation and although I wasn’t planning to post until I moved for college, the week taught me things about myself I felt were worthy of sharing.
I‘ve been blessed enough to spend a large amount of time at Esopus this past year on retreats and encounters— as both a leader and part of kitchen crew. Yet I knew coming into this week that I was going to experience something different, having never worked a camp, much less a camp that serves special needs adults.
It seemed almost too easy to hear everyone say, “You’ll be great! You always are!” and walk in Sunday morning with complete confidence. In fact, it was too easy to be plausible. The first day was by far the toughest and, for the first time, I felt complete discomfort. I felt the foreign feeling of not being in control and not knowing how to handle everything in the situation. Thus, when I was in a position of watching over a camper who’d thrown up and was resting for almost 2 hours in an empty room, dreading what I would soon face (like bathing a camper, or not being able to understand what a camper was saying, or not knowing what a camper does or doesn't need help with) I remembered a prayer I heard from one of the most influential educators I've had in life. Those who know me, know how much I admire my 11th grade Literature and 12th grade Public Speaking teacher Ms. Mary Pat Gannon. At the end of every school year, she’d read the same prayer to all her classes and send us off into the world with the blessings and wishes in our hearts. She's retired as of this year, so I figured it'd be perfect to incorporate her prayer into this post so the world knows that not only does her memory and influence remain in all her students, but it truly became applicable in a situation I thought I wouldn't be able to overcome.
Without further adieu, A Franciscan Blessing as recounted by Mary Pat Gannon:
May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.
It was almost too overwhelming the way I felt that Sunday at camp. I wanted absolutely no one to see through the fact that I felt like I couldn't do it. I yearned for someone to offer to take care of something for me, in order for me to avoid it and stay comfortable. I called my mom in tears and explained the fact that I didn’t know what was going on, that everyone knew more than me, and that I truly just wasn't prepared for it. It wasn’t until she responded with, “Of course you weren’t prepared for it! That’s why you’re there to learn!” that I realized I wasn't there for an easy week, I was there to experience the discomfort, to seek my own truth boldly, and to love deep within my heart in a new form. I concluded that at that moment, my smartest and strongest choice would be to surrender. I needed to surrender my pride and my preconceived notions that I was qualified enough to do everything on my own. I began to reach out to my awesome group leaders and fellow counselors, and I allowed myself to feel the discomfort instead of run away from it. After all, life from now on won't be as easy for me as it seemed in high school. I will be put into many situations I won’t be instantly good at, but it’s the strength to wait it out and practice it that makes any and all final results worth it. It's the strength in surrender that made the week worth it.
May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.
It’s no secret that I’m a naturally emotional person, someone who constantly wears her heart on her sleeve and is almost comically easy to read. Because of this, the overwhelming feeling of stress I experienced the first day quickly and powerfully turned into an overwhelming feeling of love and compassion. I distinctly remember one night at the campfire when I sat with one of my campers who was non-verbal and frequently would tic and twitch. I spent a good amount of the week with him and would sing to him on our walks after dinner. That one night at the campfire, though, I had rested my head on his shoulder as the music played and for a few minutes, his tics stopped. I felt him relax for a moment and I couldn’t think to do anything else but start to cry. I figured how easy it must be in the outside world to simply ignore him or avoid interacting with him but in the few days it took for me to grow close to him I felt how incredible it was when he was able to recognize my means of comforting him. In that one instance, I understood what it meant to transform someone’s pain into joy and it became a moment I’ll never forget.
But most of all, may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really can make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God's grace, to do what others claim cannot be done. Amen.
This part exists as something I think was inside me all along. For a while before applying, I inadvertently tried to make excuses for myself as to why I shouldn't be at camp.
"Everyone has much more experience than me. Even my two best friends who were counselors for their first time had at least been to another camp last year. I had no experience at all."
"I've never worked with special needs individuals in my life. I never even really took care of anyone other than myself, so how will I be able to do both?"
Yet I was foolish enough to apply, foolish enough to stick it out, foolish enough to ask questions. I grew as a person and became humbled as a leader all at the same time. This week allowed me to realize that although I've done amazing things in high school and I've dedicated time to helping out as many people as possible, there is always more work to be done. There will always exist people to fight for, people to care for, and people to love. But like the prayer finalizes with; I was able, with God's grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.
I want to thank absolutely everyone at Adult Vacation— campers, counselors, kitchen crew, and directors alike— who helped make the week as incredible as it was. I learned and was inspired by you all and my time at my first camp was a memorable experience, and one I know I'll never forget.
Thanks for reading once again! Sending blessings your way today & always.