It all started with an invite by another blogger to a Facebook page “1000 Voices Speak For Compassion” in which a thousand bloggers will write a Blog Post on Compassion and publish TODAY, February 20th, 2015. This is a movement to understand and show compassion to each and every human on this beautiful planet we call Earth. Our hope is that 1000 writers/blogger write about Compassion, and those 1000 post are read by hundreds of thousands. How amazing would that be.
I learnt all about Compassion back in 1989 when I came to America to work as a Summer Camp as a Lifeguard/Swim Instructor. Yep, a summer camp in up state New York with beautiful views and acres and acres of woods, rolling hills and a sprawling lake. It was very similar to the summer vacation camp that Baby was at in Dirty Dancing. Not quite as fancy, but you get the idea 🙂
I arrived on Camp several days prior to camp councilors and the kids that I and others would be in charge of. Those days prior to the others arriving were spent cleaning up the camp, meeting the administrators and understanding ones roll at the camp. On this side of the camp that I would be working on we would have kids from age 5 to 80. I thought this was a misprint, but didn’t say anything. On the other side of the camp which was located on the other side of the Lake was a Summer Camp for Holocaust survivors.
The first day of REAL camp had arrived, with the night prior to this most if not all of the councilors piling onto camp and figuring out where they would be living for the next several months. That morning we all lined up along the route that the school buses would take to welcome our charges. As the buses rolled along the road, and I got to peek in at the excited faces two things hit me like a TON of bricks.
These were no regular kids, and a lot of these kids were adults and senior citizens. As the kids, teenagers, adults and senior citizens disembarked the buses I saw for myself that this camp was for the enjoyment of people with developmental disabilities. No one had told me, or a vast majority of the councilors that these people would be our charges.
Compassion ~ 1000 Voices
As our guests got off of their buses councilors that had worked at the camp the previous years started to approach and greet the guests. In turn these guests smiled, hugged, shouted, screamed, jumped for joy and a whole lot of other things because they were so excited to see their camp councilor from last year. My shock turned into a big smile and I stepped forward to greet one, two, three and so many more guests as they disembarked the buses. I was given handshakes, pats on the back, hugs, and one camper even picked me up in a huge bear hug. He was told to put me down 🙂
That first night several councilors left our camp, it was to much for them to take in. I on the other hand sat on the asphalt black top where there were many picnic tables and chairs and listened to the old councilors retell stories of campers from last year that were here this year and what they all got up to. That was a fascinating night, and had a lot to do with me deciding to stay.
Here is where I learnt Compassion, understanding, patience, and that we are all human.
As the weeks rolled on and one day swam into another, lazy summer days with warm sun and ice cream afternoons became my norm, I saw a transformation. The kids, teenagers, and adults that were here for a vacation became NORMAL. They no longer had this issue, or that inability to do a particular task.
It became the kid, teenager, adult who could achieve things, do that task, say that word, get dressed…. You started to see what they could do, and NOT what they could not do. You saw them as funny, loving, trusting, compassionate, beautiful people.
They showed me through every day doing, what real compassion is. An ability to empathize, to sympathize with another person, and a want/need to help them. I lost count of how many times a camper named Russell wanted to teach his brother Larry to swim. We would sit at the waters edge and splash the water. Russell could swim, Larry could not and would NOT put much more than a toe or hand into the water. Russell would show such patience when it came to free swim time, when he could go into the water and swim. He rarely did, choosing instead to sit with his brother and splash. There were days where it was so HOT, yet there Russell sat hanging out with his brother.
We had an amazing community within this society, one that saw what someone COULD do, not what they could not. They would cheer on every last player/teammate whether they were first or last. They didn’t care, they were having FUN…
That summer gave me an amazing insight into life. They understood to take the time to stop and smell the roses, enjoy the moment, savor the experience.
I am very grateful for my summer at Camp for several reasons. I got to meet and see what the world is like through the eyes of some amazing people. I also met my husband of 23 years there, who is the most amazing, patient, compassionate person I know.
Fast forward to present day and my children have gone through school being integrated with children with developmental disabilities. Last year my then 11 y/o every week spent an hour with them to read books. She loved that time spent with them, as they never once judged her. She has dyslexia, and when she stumbled on a word the child that she was reading to said to her ” It’s OK I stumble on all of the words, I can’t read.” My daughter looked at her and said, “We will get through this together.”
Compassion comes in many shapes, sizes, colors and people. Don’t think for one instance that because a person has a disability that they are unable to show compassion. They are probably the one that will show the most compassion.
Remember Compassion is for everyone.