My Barrette

June is busting out all over!

Yay! Schools are out. Teachers and students together give a collective sigh.

In the meantime, summer program planning is ramping up.

I first visited summer camp in 1965. Subsequently, I attended every year through high school. I would like to say I looked forward to it, but honestly, I was a nervous wreck the minute we got into the car. I dreaded the swim test, the nurse visit (they dipped the thermometer in rubbing alcohol between camper’s mouths), and the preliminary introductions of bunkmates and counselors. But I always returned.

As an adolescent, I really wasn’t sure about how cool camp was anymore. I didn’t want to be pushed into activities I didn’t want to do, I didn’t want to have partners that I didn’t particularly gravitate toward, I hated the fact that the staff was ever in motion to keep everyone involved. I was determined to have a bad attitude and steadfastly vowed never to crack and “drink the koolaid”.

So it went. The week was dragging. We had had a run of hot weather. Everyone was sticky and sweaty and filled with pimples. The bathhouse was always awash with girls sneaking showers, putting on makeup, and talking about the dance on Friday. I just wanted out.

I sulked my way through Monday and Tuesday. My counselor talked to me about joining in.

Blah. Blah. Blah.

Couldn’t she see I just was not into it?

It was Wednesday of my camp week and I was sent to the Lodge to do KP. While up at the serving window, Carla, one of the kitchen staff, said:

“That barrette you are wearing? Where did you get it? I love it.”

It was as if fairy dust shook down from the ceiling. I felt like the Hulk when he busted out of his tight shirt. Something was happening inside me. I felt validated and worthy. I felt like that simple comment had changed me somehow. I began to walk differently.

Later in the day, I volunteered to be in the skit. I started taking an interest in color and nature. I shared things, did hair, painted my toenails with my cabin mates, and became a joiner. I let it in.

As I sit here and write this, I relive that minute in time as vividly as if it happened 5 minutes ago. I used this philosophy throughout my teaching career and into my leadership seminars.

Kids need validation.

They want to count.

I think it is important to seek to know all kids in your program on a first name basis. Remember one trait they exhibit and lift them up with it.

My barrette is long gone. I have lost touch with Carla. But the memory of those simple words….have lasted a lifetime.

You know, it’s funny, but the simplest words carry profound weight in a child’s eyes.

Make sure you remember this as you bring on your summer programs.

Thanks for listening.

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