To be honest, writing this just seemed like another thing to check off of my to do list. I have been dreading the idea of writing a blog post…coming up with a good topic and conveying a message worth listening to. Then, in an instant, I new exactly what I wanted to write about.
This past summer I spent my time working as a camp counselor at a camp for kids with special needs. That experience is something I will never forget. This camp atmosphere is hard to put into words…magical, inspiring, amazing…life changing. This past weekend I went back to my home away from home and instantly felt reconnected to the place I had fallen in love with.
Recently I have been feeling disconnected with those around me and with myself. The ins and outs of life have me feeling like a robot on repeat. And I felt as if I was running out of power. But upon my arrival at camp I began to feel recharged. The new and old faces around me, the laughter and the smiles, and the seclusion from the outside world, gave me the energy to feel inspired again. These kids do not have all the advantages that I have. They all have health issues ranging from mild to severe, some come from underprivileged homes, and others are unable to attend school because of their health. Yet, when they arrive at camp none of that matters anymore. Everyone is a family, the people you have known for years and the people you just met. Race, religion, sexuality, politics…none of that matters, and for 48 hours we all focus on just letting kids be kids.
Now, of course, this didn’t happen instantly when I arrived at camp. We arrive, get settled in, and meet the family we will be paired with for the weekend. At first, its awkward small talk, but by the end of the weekend you are best friends. The young girl in my family is ten years old, finally old enough to climb the rock wall at camp. However there is a slight problem…she is afraid of heights! Yet she grabbed a helmet, learned the rules, and got set to climb. As soon as she heard the words “climb on” up she began to climb without hesitation, taking the first steps into unknown territory. I am sure there were plenty of terrifying thoughts running through her head…she could fall, she could miss a rock, she could get scared…ultimately she could fail. Yet she kept pushing on and what happened next sent chills up my spine.
When she would stop and think about coming down, her belayer would urge her on and tell her the next move to make. And when that didn’t seem to be enough encouragement, the ENTIRE gym began giving her words of encouragement, shouting out to her. This went on for awhile and people kept up the support, they didn’t get bored, tired, or move on to other activities. Twice, the young girl came down, took a break, and then tried again. And in the end she didn’t make it to the top, but she sure was very close!
She was supported, encouraged, and loved by those who knew her and by those who didn’t. I think everyone in the gym that night got a glimpse of a better world that could be…a world in which everyone is lifted up to higher places. No one rushed to the other ropes in attempt to race her to the top, no one told her to just give up, and no one talked down to her. Everyone gave her the strength of words to push herself to new heights.
If a world like this can exist between strangers in a new place, why can’t our lives and the world around us look more like this? Everyone who watched her climb that night made a special connection with each other and with her. Life isn’t a race or a competition; there is no first place winner. Instead of getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, we all need to remember what matters to us. And while we are at it we need to consider others and what they need from us. Without the support and love she received, she probably wouldn’t have made it as high up as she did. Just think about those around us who need an extra lift – imagine what they could do if they were supported in the way this young girl was.
Stacey Masur is a third-year Nursing and Spanish double major and a second-year WILLer.