It's a little harder to be in Charleston this week because my heart is so longing to be somewhere else right now. I spent my first three college summers at Camp Lake Stephens, a small, outdoorsy, Christian camp in Oxford, Mississippi. Three best summers of my life! We spend the majority of the summer working with kiddos and teens, which is grand and all, but the week of the Fourth of July, oh my goodness, we get to do something spectacular. We have adults with special needs come spend the week with us. It's called Camp Rainbow, and I can't even begin to tell you how amazing it is. But of course, I'll try.
Year after year, campers of a wide range of physical and psychological special needs come experience camp. And they absolutely adore it. But I think all of us who have been blessed to work it adore them even more.
Your eyes are opened to the wide world of special needs, but it's so beautiful and so much fun. You'll dance harder and freer than you ever have in your life. Your heart and your face can't stop smiling. And you'll probably never laugh harder in your life than this week! The campers are genuinely funny, and they know they are. They love to laugh with you.
The camper I had all three summers is so dear to my heart. This woman is such a huge inspiration for me in general, but she was also a huge motivator in my decision to become an occupational therapist. If I could spend the rest of my life working with this demographic, that couldn't come too soon! And not only that, but she and all the other campers have opened my eyes to the beauty and importance of special needs adoptions. But we won't get into that right now...
This is Ms. J. She is the most beautiful, gentlest, and most wonderful person I know. That's a lot of adjectives, but I absolutely mean each of them! She adores people, and is just so truly sweet! She is probably about half my size and quite a bit older, but we would walk all over camp together holding hands, and we were best friends. Sometimes, she would look up at me with the sweetest eyes and tell when that when she grew up, she wanted to be a counselor just like me! Talk about ripping your heart out! :) And at night, when I'd tuck her in, she loved for me to pray for her, and when I finished, she'd take her turn talking to Jesus and pray for me. Memories don't get sweeter than that.
I could go on for hours, but I'll leave you with one story, then I'll give you one more tomorrow.
Canoeing Disaster or so I Thought
During my first summer, it was my day to take Ms. J canoeing on the lake. We'd ride the bus down to the lake, get suited up in our lifejackets, and get in a canoe with my other camper for the week, Ms. C. We start canoeing around, and I'm thinking that everything is going great. Now Ms. C loves the canoeing experiencing and was paddling away and also shaking the boat from side to side at any opportunity. She loved it and would just laugh away. The canoe was always stable, and we were never in any danger of tipping; however, I quickly discover that Ms. J is actually pretty dang scared of canoeing. Being on a little boat so close to the water was understandably very scary for her.
She started getting pretty upset pretty quickly. So of course, I have to act fast because I didn't want her to try and get out or accidentally cause us to tip. So I try to distract her by getting her to join me in singing one of her favorite songs, "You are my Sunshine." Now you may not know this but I have absolutely no concept of music, and singing may just be thing I am least talented at in this world (second only maybe to physics, maybe.). But its truly no exaggeration, I sound awful, even in simple songs like this. But I belt our song as loud as I can, trying to pretend that all the other campers and counselors passing by in their canoes are not noticing my terrible, terrible voice. And while I'm singing, I'm also trying to beg Ms. C to no longer rock the canoe and trying make sure that Ms. J is no longer living in fear.
Well, the singing worked, and we survived! I think Ms. C would have liked the canoe to be a little more adventurous, and I think the other campers and counselors would have liked to not have their ears bleed. But Ms. J made it, and she was so very proud of herself for canoeing. And I was too!
You only think you know what the twist and shout is... You gotta see this lady dance!