A few years ago, I was asked to share where my favourite place in the world was. At the time, it took me a while to narrow down where my favourite place was, but eventually I decided. Two years ago if someone would have asked me where my favourite place in the world was I would have answered “Killbear Provincial Park”. I still hold Killbear to be one of my top favourite places, but after this summer, I will no longer be the same person I was before going to Camp Health Hope and Happiness (shortened to Camp He Ho Ha), as a camp counselor.
This summer I was given the privilege of being a camp counselor at Camp He Ho Ha, a camp for people with special needs. During the application process we were told we had to write an essay on “why we deserved to be given the amazing privilege to work at this camp”. At the time, I saw the word “privilege” to mean something completely different. To me, the privilege I was receiving was the privilege to have a job during the recession. After spending even the first day at camp I realized that the privilege that the camp directors were talking about was not the privilege of receiving a pay check, but the privilege of getting to work with such amazing people.
The first ten days of camp were spent in an intense training session learning what I thought to be “my survival guide,” little did I know that that was only the first couple chapters of my survival guide. During camp, returning staff and our camp coordinators kept telling us that after this summer we would not be the same people (as if they knew what we were really like), and every time they would say that I would think to myself “I doubt in the next three and a half months I am going to be any different than I was when I came” . Wow, was I ever wrong!
My most memorable week of camp was during our first physically disabled camp week. At our weekly staff meeting, we were told that this week was going to be the hardest week of our lives, and were they ever right! After being prepped that we would be challenged more than we have ever been. I was a nervous mess and right away I felt a warm flush internally and I was anxious. This particular week involved working with physically disabled male adults. I can remember thinking there is no way I can do this! Before the arrival of the campers, the counselors gathered outside our cabins to draw colorful chalk drawings to welcome them. You could see the anxious looks on everyone’s faces as we heard the bright yellow school buses ripping down the gravel laneway to the camp. We all dropped our chalk and hustled to meet the busses. “I am going to be just fine,” I kept repeating trying to calm myself down.
Cabin number five’s bus arrived; camper by camper they unloaded the bus until we had ten wheelchairs headed for the cabin. This week, it was my turn to do the behind the scenes work, unpacking, making phone calls and delivering medications to the nurses. Busy with all this work, time flew by, before I knew it, it was time for lunch. I made my way to the dining hall to eat and help our campers that could not feed themselves. I ended up coming in a few minutes late with one of our campers. When I entered the dining hall, one of my fellow counselors pulled me over and said that one of my campers (for this blog I will call him Ted) wanted my help to eat his meal. I got my food and headed over to help Ted eat his meal. I was feeding Ted and he would point his head to what food he wanted next. During the entire meal, he was killing himself laughing, but I never could figure out why. In the spirit of camp, I joined in on the laughter, laughing every time he did. Lunch ended and I headed back to the cabin to finish unpacking the other camper’s belongings. It took all afternoon to finish with cabin work and running around doing all the necessary odd jobs, I finished just in time to meet everyone for dinner. As I walked out to the gazebo, where my cabin was waiting to be let into the dining hall, I overheard Ted having a conversation with another counselor.
I couldn’t believe what I was overhearing! The images from lunch came flooding back through my head. I had helped Ted feed himself through the entire meal; it was then that I realized that I had been fooled by a camper! I had fed Ted; I held his drink up to his mouth, wiped his mouth and laughed while he laughed throughout the entire meal. Little did I know, he had been laughing at me the whole time, I, unknowingly had been laughing at myself! Ted finally turned around and noticed me standing behind him, “Have you clued in yet? It’s about time!” My mouth just dropped to the floor. All I could do was walk away.
I will never forget Ted and I thank him for teaching me to never to assume anything.