Lessons from Summer Camp

This summer I decided to volunteer for a summer camp for children with disabilities.  After the first day, I can say it has been an incredibly humbling and rewarding experience.

I am bone tired, my shoulders ache and I have burns in various places, but my heart is full and my smile is wide. Watching these children run around, listening to their outlook of the world and experiencing life as they do showed me that life has many different challenges but that does not mean you can’t make the most of it.

I volunteered to work with a group of teenagers so I could relate and share similar experiences with them. I entered the experience hoping I could offer them lessons but I left knowing so much more. Some lessons that these beautiful friends taught me today were:

Happiness is not always a reward

Even with their disabilities, their personalities shined through. They looked at the morning as a blessing. They always had something to look forward to and engaged in every activity with grins on their faces. Their eagerness and the look of bliss on their faces opened my cluttered mind and showed me that happiness does not always come from hard work. That we don’t have to break our bones to achieve satisfaction because sometimes happiness is right in front of us and we just have to open our eyes to it. Happiness could be in the form of sunshine during the sunrise or the soft sway of the grass in the breeze. If we open our eyes and accept the simplicity of the world before us, we can find happiness waiting there.

Everyone is welcome

As a newcomer entering the camp midway through its duration, I expected to never really be accepted wholeheartedly but upon entering, the kids immediately ran up to me with grins on their faces and mouths bursting with questions. This warm welcome despite the circumstances showed me that acceptance can go a long way. We all need acceptance and belonging one way or another, whether it may be from friends or family, social media etc. But in order to belong, making people feel welcome is the first step.

The fact that these friends opened their arms to a complete stranger showed me that nothing should hold you back from letting others feel accepted and there should never be discrimination.

Love anyone and everyone

Even as a complete stranger, I was given warm smiles and tons of high-fives. In the span of maybe 2 minutes tops, those high-fives and smiles graduated into hugs and giggles. As a newcomer feeling completely scared and afraid of not fitting in, this opened me up tremendously. Later on in the day, we came across a couple of city workers on our nature walk and the children greeted the men with warm smiles, quick hugs and conversation. Their friendliness shifted the 10 minute walk into a 30 minute walk, but there’s no doubt that their smiling faces and light chatter made the workers’ day. These actions showed me that friendliness is never limited and the love within us should not be withheld from anyone.

Today was an immensely rewarding experience, full of laughter and hugs. Even after a few hours, I have learned so much about happiness and love and I look forwards to learning more throughout the week. From firsthand experience, I can say volunteering is always rewarding but it is lessons like this that make it worthwhile even when you’re exhausted.

Image courtesy of Snugg LePup.