Over the five years that I worked at camps in America I built up an endless array of memories that without fail always bring a smile to my face. But my one stand out memory comes from my first summer as a lifeguard and general counsellor at Mateo Day Camp in San Francisco.
On this particular day we had taken all the children on a trip to the local water park; the excitement levels were at fever pitch and it was a typical hot sunny Californian day so the weather most definitely matched the mood in camp. I was in charge of a group of 10 kids along with my co-counsellor Karli and we all headed straight to the biggest water slide with a reputation for offering the best views of the Bay area. Karli stayed at the bottom and I headed up to the very top with all of the kids in hot pursuit. One by one they went down until only Harry remained. Harry had gone a peculiar shade of green and was visibly shaking. “I can’t do it” he said, “I am terrified of heights”.
I spent 3 hours that day in the blazing hot sun attempting to coax Harry down the slide, I would even have been happy to turn back and go down the steps but he was frozen in fear. I kept calm and tried to distract him singing songs and sharing stories of our favourite things until eventually Harry turned to me and said, “I think I can do it, if you will be right behind me”. He did it. Not only that but he did it with a smile, and wanted to go on again because he loved it so much.
Three weeks later I got a thank you card from Harry’s Grandma who was overwhelmed by how I had managed to get Harry to conquer his fear. The gratitude touched me as for me, I was just doing my job. And that’s the thing about being a camp counsellor, you won’t always know the many different ways in which you will impact a kids life but you will, just by doing your job. After that day at the water park Harry went on to conquer another fear that summer…he learnt to swim in the deep end of the pool. It may not sound like a big deal but his family had been trying for 2 years to do that and every time his fear gripped him and overwhelmed him. When I am facing tough times, or don’t feel brave enough to try something out of my comfort zone, I think back to Harry and ask myself, “what would Harry do?”
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