This past week marked the beginning of the day camp which we will be staffing during the summer. For the past several summer’s I’ve worked with kids in some aspect or another, but none of those summer’s prepared me for what would ensue at day camp.
Upon arriving back at our house following the conclusion of the first day, one of our staffers asked me “How was your day?” I responded with the minuscule amount of energy I had left “It was a day.” Sensing in my tone that I had such a rough day she asked what made the day so tiring, I responded that my day was excellent until lunch, following lunch is when everything hits the fan. Jokingly I threw out the phrase, “The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away”. This soon developed into a daily activity of when asked about my day by anyone I would say, “The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away”.
The children are each divided up with counsellors into squads, and my squad is full of children who are talented, creative, and full of energy. This is a daily blessing and in the morning, our squad is full of joy, fun, and laughter. However, following lunch it’s as if a switch is flipped and many of the same children become apathetic, disinterested, divisive, and defensive. This transition is both confusing and odd seeing the two separate sides of behavior, however I am reminded of how frequently I am guilty of the same duality.
The two differing sides of my day, seem in a way representative of the polarizing world these children experience on a daily basis. Though I am in no way qualified to speak on these issues or fully knowledgeable of the lives these children have led, I’ll tell of my observations and a couple stories. The realities of the struggles and circumstances facing these kids stands in stark contrast with the desires and innocence of the majority of children I know of. And in a way it reflects the way they have those joys given to children, but so many of them have innocence and joys that have been taken away.
Throughout the week I saw glimpses into a world which should never be encountered by children, but this obvious displacement became most clear during our Thursday field trip with a student I will call Neil. Now Neil is an angelic child, the one who gives you hope and makes you hope that if you were to have children one day they would be just like him. Neil is a role model to many of the other children and at only nine years old is a hero to many. However, on our field trip on Thursday, at a place called Port Discovery (literally the chosen land for children) I got to see a glimpse of the everyday realities Neil experiences.
Now for some context, Port Discovery has a giant jungle gym in the center full of a variety of tiny places in which children climb, crawl, and run. Meanwhile their counsellors (me and the other interns) also must climb, crawl, and run after them, the cardio involved is unrivaled. While lying flat on my stomach trying to squeeze through a section designed for 6-10 year olds (Spoiler:I made it) I needed up next to Neil who was also belly crawling. He remarked to me, “Man I can’t remember the last time I was this flat”, I laughed and responded, “I can promise you I never have been”. He then jutted in nonchalantly, “Oh wait, I remember when, it was at the last drive by shooting”. As he finished the sentence he made it through the area jumped up and said “Come on Miss Keri, now we’ve got to climb the Rock Wall”.
Needless to say I was floored. The shocking contrast of his statements, not to mention the incredible normalcy to him of his statement still overwhelm me, even as I type this nearly a week later. This is life for Neil. Drive by shootings are just as likely to be the cause of his lying flat as a field trip. This juxtaposition is reflective of the two worlds experienced by many of the children, a world of day camp with crafts, worship, and snacks side by side of a world of gangs, illegal activities, and violence. As I reflect on this, I no longer wonder why the day transitions from so good to so bad, but am rather surprised at how good the good is.
For all of these children the world has Giveth but it has definitely taken more away. And the more I realize the reality of this, the more I comprehend my inability to do anything but pray the prayer that the Lord intervene and Giveth.