Lose Yourself In Selfless Service
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Health and Wellness

Lose Yourself In Selfless Service

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service" — Mahatma Ghandi

Lose Yourself In Selfless Service
Champions Special Ministries / Facebook

The early summer of 2014, my neighbor emailed me a flyer for a special needs camp that was going to happen in the end of July. The camp was called Champions of Special Ministries, a weeklong day camp for kids, teens and adults with special needs, ranging from people who could care for themselves to individuals who would be completely dependant on someone else to care for them. I decided it would be a good experience for me.

Sunday was the training day, which made me nervous for the week. That is when it became clear to me that the majority of these campers rely on someone to take care of them. We had to be trained on many scenarios varying from helping them in the bathroom to what to do if one of them had a seizure, which became my number one fear because my camper had epilepsy.

My first year as a volunteer I had a little boy who had brain injuries. He lit up my day every day. He had a thing for microphones and megaphones, which made each day was a new obstacle of learning about self-control and making good and bad choices. Each morning we participated in Rally Time; the time each morning that we sang worship songs, praise the lord and learned a new bible story. Some mornings he wanted to be involved with the songs and games, and some mornings, it was a different story. Several times throughout the week we would end up in the sensory room with one of the staff members because he wanted to run up on stage and talk into the microphone. When the staff and I told him it wasn’t microphone time, he would have a meltdown, which would land us right in the sensory room. Sometimes we would just lay on the floor real quiet, which was nice because it was the only calm we would experience for the majority of the day. One specific day we spend a large amount of time discussing good and bad choices and self-control. He liked to be given choices, so a lot of times I would give him the choice of spending 3 minutes in the sensory room or 5 minutes. The time didn’t actually matter, he just liked having the option to choose.

That little boy is what inspired me to volunteer again the next summer. When I went to fill out the volunteer forms, I reflected on how tired I remember being and how I had a big swim meet after camp for two days, but I wanted to be a part of the experience again. I was hoping my sweet little boy would be coming back, as well as many of the other campers and volunteers. A couple of the staff members returned but not the ones I was close to, not the ones that had been there for me when I need help. I knew that this time it would be different.

At training, we got our camper cards, and I knew the drill since I had done this once before. The card had almost everything you needed to know about your camper. This card meant very little to me since my camper ended up being my neighbor who has autism. He was the whole reason I volunteered at this camp in the first place. It was a relief to have a camper I knew and had grown up with. He was my inspiration in the beginning and was my inspiration once more. The week with my friend went smoothly, I knew what to expect with him. Some days were challenging because it was different than my experienced before. At training, they taught us not to treat the campers like little kids, since most of them would be the same age as their coach or older, even if their mental age was younger. That meant no baby talk or head pats — it’s degrading. My first year my camper was a little kid, so it was okay to treat him like a little kid. But my neighbor was closer in age to me. I respected him and saw him as an equal, but I was also responsible for caring for him.

Camp went smoothly that summer and the experience greatly impacted what I want to do with my life. With my love for kids, and even a bigger lover for kids, teens and young adults with special needs, I wanted to continue that work. I contemplated apply for a staff position the following summer, but I knew I would be leaving in the fall for my first semester of college and didn’t want to spend the whole summer away from home. I chose to stick to my routine and be a volunteer.

Originally that summer I was put into a group of all girls, but after some of the campers arrived, one of the camper’s mom wanted an experienced volunteer, and I was the lucky one who got to spend the next week caring for the best little boy in the world.

He was always full of laughter and smiles. He loved to be silly. That made the week so much fun, and our time together flew by. At the end of the week, I was almost in tears knowing that the next time I saw him wasn’t going to be for a while. Fortunately for me, his mom gave me her number and told me to come see him anytime I wanted, which I took full advantage of almost every time I was home.

People with special needs are some of the most loving, caring people I have ever met. They light up my day with their optimistic attitude. They see the world through rose-colored glasses, so to speak. They make me want to see the world that way.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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