When you say yes to one thing, it can lead you to a place you might never have gone had you stayed safe and kept saying no. It can lead you to a lot more yes's. I'm so glad I said yes to camp.
When a bus full of kids arrived at camp, daddy and I were out on a field with tons of other camp counselors and staff. We were all cheering for the royal kiddos on that bus. As they stepped out one by one they each came through a tunnel of high-fives and cheers. Most of them were probably nervous and excited at the same time. Maybe they didn't realize how anxious a lot of us counselors were too. I was nervous that my wisdom, patience, and energy would fall short of what they needed. For most of these kids, this is the one week in the entire year when they don't feel like an outsider. They get to just be kids. It's an incredibly important week.
The first summer my cabin was filled with eleven year olds. I have so many memories that I could write you stacks of letters just about those five days, but for now I will tell you just a few stories of little heroes I will never forget.
One is of a girl I will call Teddy. Teddy wasn't even my camper, but we shared a cabin together. Her counselor had to leave camp a day early that year. Teddy knew saying goodbye to her counsellor would be tough. So, after a few days at camp, we started to become good buddies. She hoped that becoming friends with me would make it easier to say goodbye to her own counselor. Teddy was so much fun. She was sweet and friendly and she always held on to hugs. At camp we aren't allowed to give big bear hugs, but we can give side-hugs. Well, Teddy would hang onto any kind of hug for as long as you would let her.
One day we were sitting and listening to story time. Teddy had her arms wrapped around my legs and was sitting at my feet on the ground. I was stroking her hair when I started to feel little hot drops of water hitting my feet. I gulped as I realized that Teddy was crying. Her little hot tears were hitting my feet. Drop...drop...drop. I didn't want to embarrass her, so I waited until the story was over before I asked what was wrong.
She told me that story-time had reminded her of her mom. You see, the story mentioned the great big hug that a runaway boy got from his dad when he came home. Teddy told me that her mom was a big hugger too. She gave the best kind - the big bear kind that swallow you up and warm you all the way from your ears to your toes.
Then I realized why Teddy hung onto hugs for so long...why she wrapped her arms around my calves during story time. Teddy just didn't get enough hugs. For whatever reason, her mom couldn't give her those bear hugs anymore. From then on, I let Teddy hang on for as long as she wanted.
Teddy made me realize that there were things I could do to help kiddos with big hurts. I didn't have all the answers. I couldn't take away Teddy's pain.
But, I could let those side-hugs hang on longer.
Because of Teddy, I started to see that the fear of not being helpful, wise or useful enough could keep me from being any of those things at all.
If I had said no to camp because of fear, I couldn't have given Teddy one single hug.
Teddy wasn't the only camper who helped me see things more clearly. There was another brave eleven year old in my cabin that year. I think I'll call her Julia...