I have a knack for winding up in really random arrangements. The startling thing is, I usually don’t realize that it’s a little odd until I’m already up to my neck in a pickle and it’s just too late. If this sounds concerning, it’s really not. It’s more just funny. I am wide-eyed and a little chatty, but not altogether naive. I also have friends who say things like, “Sarah, if it’s weird after fifteen minutes, you don’t have to do it.” (dear friends, thank you for that, by the way)
During my school/work limbo, it was through such a roundabout way that I worked at the ARC camp with special needs children. Hey, I thought, I like little ones, and while I didn’t have experience with this particular population, I felt confident. If you promise not to pass judgement, I’ll tell you that I never felt particularly drawn to working with special needs children, so I saw this opportunity as a means to render a match. For better or for worse, I can be pushy with myself that way. Sometimes it makes life rich, sometimes after much hammering, I realize that “oh yes, square pegs really do not fit in round holes.”
I admit, I am ashamed that in working with these campers, I ever imagined I could make anything happen at all. A bit embarrassed that I actually thought, “oh let me use my skills to provide them services.”
Well, when I type it out like that, it really doesn’t seem so shameful now does it? After all, that is why one gets hired for a service position, and helpers in particular always experience this sort of rub. I guess, as I am processing, the greater issue was that I marched (first faux-pas, never “march,” it’s obnoxious), right into my camp counseling duties and forwent opening myself up to them. Unknowns are daunting and sometimes that very human diffidence is easily compensated for by control. But, let’s do ourselves a favor and try to learn from the newness rather than keep it in line. I am not preaching. Hindsight is 20/20.
On day # 1 of camp I still was so arrogant as to assume that my expectations might be the real thing. By day # 2 I realized I was wrong, not to mention I was plum tuckered out. By day # 3 I was ready to quit. The past 72 hours had been marked by tantrums, dirty nine year old diapers, food allergies and compulsive swearing that made me wonder whether or not a mis-diagnosis had occurred. Terrets, perhaps? Truly, I had never seen or heard anything like it. Oh yeah, add in 100 degree heat. Every. Single. Day. My life felt as repetitive as all get-out. Like a nightmarish routine. And I think routines in general are nightmarish, even without tantrums and food allergies.
One day, mid-June, I came home from camp in desperate need of a hug, chocolate and a glass of wine. Apparently, I also needed to watch the movie Amelie. If you’ve never seen it, please do. It’s artsy and eloquent and wonderful. It spoke to me that sweaty June day because of a particular clip explaining Amelie’s desire to help. Helping, for Amelie, has to do with a) love and b) simplicity. Nothing more, nothing less. She does not seem overburdened by deep care or deep concern, she just follows a pull to give of herself, and nothing has ever been easier. She keeps to her pure little way and it is lovely.
I tried to carry this with me the next day at camp. You know why? Because Amelie fit so perfectly with the Arc Camp. Here I was, given this great opportunity to help in a very simple sort of way in part, because I was working with very simple individuals. I was doing quite menial tasks, but if I was patient, and present, and if, for one little boy, I drew 28 hamster wheels, life was perfect. The next moment it might be imperfect, but then I drew hamster wheel #29 and it was perfect again.
I had been furrowing my brow far too much about what to do and why to do it and how long the tantrum would last. This tantrum was lasting, yes, but it would also pass, and in the meantime, my hand was on his shoulder.
And a hush:
You are loved. You are touchable. You are human and you are worthy.
To my Arc campers: Thanks for loving me back. You are dear, and far more patient than I.