by Camryn Smith
A few days ago a boy, who I will just call Joe, was playing a game with some of the other campers. It so happened that, based on the game they were playing, the kids wouldn’t let Joe do anything for himself. Each time he tried to do something, another person had to do it for him. When they came back inside, I saw Joe arguing loudly with another camper that was one of his closest friends. As a counselor, this worried me. What could cause such a disagreement between these two boys? Before the argument got any further I separated them. Before I had a chance to ask what they were fighting about, Joe huffed off and sat in a chair away from our table. I was worried; I had seen Joe get upset before, but it never had to do with his friends, let alone a close one. As I walked toward Joe, another counselor came by and asked if he could take the campers to arts and crafts time. I waved him on and indicated that I was going to go talk with Joe.
I sat down on the floor beside Joe who was still in a chair. I asked if he could tell me what happened. I had never seen him this upset. His elbows leaned on his knees and his chin rested in his hands, but he wouldn’t look at me. After a minute, Joe explained the game that he had been playing and that he felt like he was excluded from the game and that the other kids didn’t like him. At one point, he muttered, “God’s my only friend.” (Our theme for this week was ‘God is our friend,’ so when I hear this, I have to admit I was slightly rejoicing because the message got through to him, that he believed that God was his friend.) Just to clarify and make sure that I heard right, I repeated what he said, to which he responded, “Well, YOU and God are my only friends.”
I wondered if there might have been some misunderstanding between Joe and his friend. I agreed that how the game was played was hurtful, and then I continued asking questions. I tried to help him think about his friend’s point of view and perspective on the game. Eventually, his initial anger had turned into sadness and loneliness. After a few minutes he reached down to me, gave me a hug, and thanked me. As he sat back up, he asked with a straight face, “Miss Camryn, can I tell you something?” My mind raced, wondering what he could possibly want to say to me in confidence. I looked at him and just said, “Sure, you can tell me, but if it’s something that I need to get other people involved in, I will.” I wanted him to know what he was getting into before he shared with me. It was important to me that Joe had some control over what he shared, and I wanted to be honest with him. He eased my mind by shaking his head and saying no it wasn’t anything like that. Joe paused for a moment, looked at me with a small smile, and revealed that he liked a certain girl and was afraid to tell her about it. As I thought about this new information for a moment, Joe turned around in his chair and saw that the other campers had left. He eagerly asked where the other kids went and if he could join them. His demeanor had changed from solemn, sad, and hurt, to curious, lively, and excited. I said of course he could join them, so we went to meet up with the other campers.
I was amazed and shocked that Joe shared so much with me and really talked with me about what was going on. Over the past week or two, I have had similar conversations with some of the other campers in which they also opened up and shared certain things with me. I was so surprised and touched that they felt that they could talk to me if they wanted or needed to. I love to hear what these children have to say, what they find important, what they find funny.