Bee stings? Crying kids? Having a short time to remember a lot of kids’ names? I didn’t know what to expect when I first started working at Camp Abe Lincoln at the beginning of the summer.
The core values are important for both campers and counselors.
Camp Abe Lincoln is a YMCA run camp, located in Blue Grass, a tiny Iowan town. As an extension of the YMCA, the camp’s foundation is built off of four core values, honesty, caring, respect, and responsibility. The camp has weeklong increments and lasts for the entire summer from the beginning of June to the middle of August. About a fourth of the kids return to camp for more than one week, or even return each week for the entire summer. After each week, counselors are required to fill out report cards for each of her campers based on how the camper did overall and demonstration of the core values.
It is the perfect job setting.
There is nothing better than being able to wear a t-shirt and shorts every day for work. However, never having to do my hair or makeup came pretty close. While strangely, according to one specific counselor in the program, the high for each day was always over a hundred degrees, to me, the weather this summer appeared perfect. Yes, there were some days spent cooped up inside to get away from a thunderstorm or sweating nonstop from the heat, but it was better than being cooped up in an office all day. It hardly seemed like a job when I spent my time canoeing, doing archery, and riding horses.
Return campers were a blessing in disguise.
One of the biggest surprises of camp was the return campers. When I was first told it was a weekly camp, I was most excited at the idea of only having to deal with the same kids for five days. Of course I was expecting that sometime during the summer I would struggle with hard-to-handle children. In order to stay as cool as a popsicle during these situations, I was planning to use the calming thought of never having to deal with that difficult child again after the end of the week. While I definitely would not have admitted it at the beginning of the summer, having return campers truly was a blessing in disguise. While some of the return campers were not always the best behaved, I loved watching them improve throughout the weeks. It was amazing to see the impact I was able to make on the children, from begging me to sit by them on the bus, to running up and hugging me for several minutes without ever saying a word.
For every non-listening child there is an angel child.
Sure, there were always those kids that promptly tried to rub his hands on you after rolling in the mud or would leave you with bruises at the end of the day after countlessly hanging on you. But there were children with nearly perfect faces and personalities to match.
The kids' have such active imaginations.
As a 6 year old told me, “to build a light bulb, first tear down a house, then break into a museum and steal the glass.” The children had such active imaginations and could talk for hours about their future job as a military plane designer and film director and doctor all in one. While sometimes their high-pitched voices made it hard for me to catch every word, all they needed was someone to stop, listen, and say “really???” at the right moments. Their minds (well most of them) were so pure. All they needed was a couple sticks or a tight rope tied in between two trees to be happy.
Or just a pair of sunglasses.