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A SEASON SPENT WITH WONDERFUL KIDS My Most Memorable Summer Job When I was going through high school and college, I was lucky enough to have a number of fun summer jobs that also served as great educational experiences. Among those gigs, the one that I remember most is the year I spent working as a camp counselor in New Hampshire. It was during my undergraduate studies, but I can’t recall if it was after my freshman or sophomore year — give me a break; it’s been a while since then. Anyway, this camp was for kids with disabilities. Going to work there every day was an unmitigated joy. In the mornings, the kids would go to school and we’d help out the teachers in any way we could. After class was over for the day, we’d take charge and do all sorts of fun activities with the campers. We spent afternoons playing caterpillar kickball, Marco Polo, and countless other games, but it’s the little moments that stick out most in my mind. It was the kids that made the job so incredible. One little boy, who must’ve been about 5 at the time, was probably the happiest and sweetest person I’ve ever met. Despite dealing with Down syndrome, he projected an energy that he didn’t have a care in the world. Without fail, he would jump into my arms and hug me every time we met for the day. Sharing these moments was so special to me. Of course, kids are also unpredictable, which I learned firsthand as a counselor. One day, the weather was unseasonably chilly, but some of the kids still wanted to spend the afternoon in the pool. One girl, who was adamant in her desire to swim, had forgotten to bring her bathing suit. We tried to find her some clothes to swim in, but couldn’t locate anything that would work. In my infinite wisdom, I decided that it would be okay for her to hang by the pool while the other kids swam. Did I mention that this young lady was strapped into her wheelchair?
wheelchair would result in her sinking like a stone. She just wanted to swim. I heard a splash, saw the terror on her face as she started to go under, and immediately jumped into that pool. Thankfully, she was only under for a few milliseconds and made it out with no harm done. We found her some sweats, got her dried off, and waited with terror for her mom to arrive. Now, it would’ve been reasonable for her mom to go absolutely crazy on us. We did, after all, let her child roll herself into the deep end. When the mom arrived, we were pleasantly surprised by her response. She couldn’t help but laugh at our misadventure. “That sounds like my daughter,” she said cheerfully. What a cool mom, right? I learned so much from that job, mostly from the remarkable children that I spent time with during that summer. Communicating with children is a unique skill, and you don’t realize how different it is until you have to talk to kids regularly. I also gained patience, understanding, and perspective that I never had before. Oh, and I learned that if you leave a willful child unattended, you never know what can happen.
I took my eyes off of her for a couple of seconds, and she made her move. Obviously, she didn’t think about the fact that being strapped into her
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