My “Waukabiashi” campers have had an extraordinary day! We’ve hiked, swam in the stream, had a cook-out and played capture the flag- Native American style! One kid has been sitting out most of the day. He is different than the other kids; he is smaller and a lot frailer. The group adapts for Paul, the members sincerely like him and his contributions to the group. This is not always the case, his parents have told me. “He hates going to school because the kids there make fun of him.” They really appreciate the way our group works together and respects each other for their abilities. I tell the parents, “We are just teaching the kids to be caring and respectful”.
The next day we start off in the field with Reggie’s “EMP” Energy Management Plan. Several non-competitive games to channel the kid’s energy into working on the totem pole after swim lessons. Paul does not feel like playing, so he sits over on the edge of the lower field, at my suggestion looking for a four leaf clover. During a water break, I go over to Paul and ask how’s he doing? He seems pleased; I have joined him for a bit. What happens next rocks my world forever! If ever there was a doubt, as to why I was put on this earth, it would be clear in a month. This next minute and events in September would solidify my desire to become a leader and to make a difference in people’s lives!
“Paul” I say, “What are you looking at? “Did you find any four leaf clovers?” The reply was simple and to the point, “No” he says, “but you see that bumble bee?” I look and see the bumble bee, I’ve seen them before I thought, “Yes”. He goes on “You know the bumble bee should not be able to fly, its wings are too small, and its body is too big.” I think for a minute, and almost get sucked back into the ensuing game. But I’m curious. Paul continues “But you know what Scott- it doesn’t know that, so it flies anyway.”
I sat with Paul for the next game looking for clovers and he tells me when he grows up he wants to be an entomologist. I said “that’s interesting.” He found a clover and he gave it to me. I still have it in my box “of little things that mean a lot to me.”
Paul died the following September from a tumor in his brain. At the service I found out he knew he was going to die, and yet found the courage to dream about growing up!!!! I suddenly felt very small, and then I remembered the- bumble bee. I remembered the summer he had as a Waukabiashi camper, and I felt very tall. It was Paul’s spirit and what I learned from him that was lifting me up. His mother came over to me and said, “Paul was so proud of his accomplishments this summer, he wanted you to know, that he is a hairy chested man!” “What does that mean”? I simply said “that’s a part of our group cheer.”
It wasn’t until now that I realized how much our program meant to Paul and his family and why. He had been able to find acceptance, confidence and a place were he could dream. We should all be so lucky! I now realize how much I was to learn about life and where my education would really come from! Thanks Paul, your spirit lives in me and guides me daily.
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