I wish you were my sister,” said Emily. I have been a counselor at W. Alton Jones Campus for three years, but never has a child left such an impact on me before. Kids come and go every year, and I of course develop an emotional attachment to almost all of them. Time, however, passes and when they leave camp I do forget their names. To this day, however, I still remember my favorite camper – little Emily, who knew exactly how to put the biggest smile on my face.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
The first day I met Emily, she seemed shy, timid, and was lacking in self-confidence, seemed all familiar to me. I knew the position she was in. Not knowing anyone, scared, and restricted to opening up. I, myself, used to be this way as a young girl. Thus, looking at Emily was like looking into a mirror of my past self. The first day of camp she instantly grew on me with her bright smile, compassionate eyes, and constant energy. As the week went on, we became closer and in turn became more trusting of me. I could tell she looked up to me as a role model and I was not going to let her down. As the week went on, she would have me sit next to her during every activity, every lesson, hold my hand during hikes, and hug me every time we had been apart for only minutes. She became the highlight of my day, and knowing that I had made her smile and made an impact on her life was the greatest gift of all.
The last day of camp was the hardest for me. I was dreading the minute that I would have to say goodbye to Emily. Before she left, she said something that I will never forget: “Thank you so much for being my counselor. The reason I held your hand is because I am scared of the dark, but now I am not anymore because of you. Nobody has ever been this nice to me; I hope you will be my counselor next year again.” Rivers of tears flowed from my eyes and I could barely say goodbye to her without choking on my words.
My experience with Emily made me realize that children do learn from adults, but adults also learn from children. Emily taught me very important lessons that week of camp. She taught me patience, understanding, compassion, and most importantly the gift of unconditional love. Working with age groups of eight to fourteen requires a lot of patience with children. I have learned that every action I make affects the people around me. The children at Alton Jones possess such a carefree attitude about life; they live in the moment. This inspires me every day to live life fully, even when I am stressed or angry because I never know when it can all just be taken away.
I am inspired by many things, but the kids at camp have by far impacted my life forever. I am a photographer, an artist, a painter, a drawer, a sculptor, and a writer. With each stroke of the brush, click of the shutter and turning of the page I am changed by this experience and it has made me who I am today. I have a compassionate heart towards all people, no matter what age, personality, or where they come from. I have learned to give unconditional love to all because I do not know what a person has been through unless I put myself in their shoes. Emily will always be a part of me and she will always have a special place in my heart. I want to leave my mark on this world and leave my name recognizably behind is my goal. I intend to carry these memories and life lessons with me and intend to pass them on to all people I know, so I can bring a little happiness and hope to everyone I meet in this world.
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