“Laughter is the best medicine.” 3 summers ago, I encountered the best opportunity of my life, one that exemplified this idea to the fullest extent. I began to work at a camp called Camp Rainbow. Camp Rainbow might sound sort of funny, but this camp is nothing to laugh about. It’s a one-week camp for children with cancer or blood related illnesses. For some of these kids, it’s the only week out of the year they are allowed out of the hospital. There are registered nurses on staff at all times. There are enough counselors and staff members to have almost two people to a kid at anytime. Like I said, nothing to laugh about. But as soon as I got there, all I could do was laugh. And as a counselor, it was my job to keep my one camper laughing at all times.
My first camper’s name was Zach. Zach, a seven year old blonde haired, blue eyed sports fan with a devilish grin, called me “Lawwen” and wan me wagged. He was in remission from Leukemia, and had just gotten his port- an indwelling central line through which one receives medicine- taken out, which meant that he could now run around without shoes on, and not worry about infection. And run around, he did. So there I was, my first year at camp rainbow and blessed with a healthy, happy camper. Unfortunately, some counselors were not as lucky. After all, this is a camp for sick children, not healthy ones. Zach could run, while other campers could barely walk with a walker or were even confined to a wheel chair.
As counselors, however, our job was to make these campers, no matter how sick, feel like normal everyday kids. The solution was laughter. I tired everything I could to make Zach, a shy little guy, laugh as hard as he could; whether it was my “physical comedy” a.k.a. tripping over myself or my “stupid jokes” a.k.a. jokes about how stupid I am, we were both always laughing.
The best example I can think of to show that laughter is the best medicine, at least for a while is a little girl named Cara. She was suffering from a severe case of leukemia. She walked with canes attached to each wrist and was very frail. A month after camp, each counselor received a letter informing us that Cara had died. We were also informed of a website where her mother wrote a blog chronicling Cara’s struggle with cancer. One especially touching entry, talked about how Cara had returned from camp with high spirits and a higher blood cell count. Her mother also explained that in the weeks following Camp Rainbow, Cara felt better than she had in a long time. I remember after I received the letter, thinking back to camp seeing Cara and her counselor constantly laughing and I couldn’t help but think that the old cliché was really a phrase to live, and die by.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.