It’s Simple

Every year I look forward to YoungLives camp and every year it exceeds my expectations. It is one week of the year that love shines through no matter what happens. It is the one time that the expectations are simple: to love.

Showing love is not always simple. It is difficult to show love when someone is angry at you for misplacing an item. It is difficult to show love when your time is taken for granted. It is difficult to show love when you have not gotten a full nights sleep and no one seems to care.

However, even when all of those things are a factor in this simple week of the year, it no longer matters. The moment you watch the young mothers and their children get off the bus and enter camp, your petty complaints do not seem to matter anymore. Your lack of sleep does not compare to the young mothers lack of a safe place to rest her head at night. Your exhausted arms continue to hold crying babies and toddlers for hours on end to ensure they feel safe in a world where the odds are against them.

This year I was asked to be a co-leader of a nursery with one of my good friends. I went into the week excited, but also with a bit of a bad attitude. It did not take long IMG_5079for the bad attitude to turn around and for my complete focus to be on doing my job and taking care of kids. We were assigned to the Butterfly nursery which was for two to two and a half year olds.
We (not so patiently) waited to receive the names and ages of the children that would be joining us the next day.

See, child care volunteers arrive on Day 0 to start training and preparing for the campers to arrive. On Day 1, the campers arrive and the nurseries receive a list of names for the children that they will spend the week with. Our nursery was blessed to be one on one for the week as we had seven wonderful volunteers and seven beautiful children.

After dinner on day 1, we reported to our nursery for the first time and got to know our children. IMG_5089We had a little guy who was the man of the nursery. He was the smallest of the bunch, but he loved to take things apart and figure out how to put them together. He enjoIMG_5096yed pushing the toy lawnmower through the grass every time we took him outside. Then we had the little ham.
He cried for his momma every day, but as soon as the camera came out his smile lit up his entire face and his cute little dimple made its appearance. He loved to give random hugs and {unexpectedly} jump on our backs when we were sitting on the floor.

IMG_5087We had our little adventurer who figured out every single toy in the nursery after being in there for five minutIMG_5134es. She was quiet, but did not take any gruff from the boys. Then, we had our little mom of the nursery. She carried around her stuffed lamby every day and pushed around a stroller. When we went on walks, she insisted on pushing a stroller, not being pushed in a stroller. She was soft spoken and sweet as can be. IMG_5175We had a little girl who always had her pacifier in her mouth, but was far from being a baby. She was independent and smart as can be. She quietly roamed the nursery and enjoyed coloring pictures and watching what others were doing.

IMG_5148The biggest kid in our nursery was also pretty quiet, but he was so smart. He completed every single puzzle we had about one hundred times over.

Finally, we had our old man of the nursery. IMG_5104He cam marching in every evening, but in the morning he was a bit on the grumpy side as his mom made it clear he was not a morning person. He carried around a minnie mouse doll and loved to tackle all the nursery workers with it. One day him and I sat on the front porch waiting for buddies to come back from a walk. While we were sitting there, someone from another nursery came up our driveway to say hello. This little guy furrowed his brows, threw his fist in the air, and yelled “Go away and don’t come back.” I could not keep from laughing.

IMG_5195

This was the first year that I was with older kids. I had never been place in a nursery with children older than one and a half. It was different as they were all independent and my arms felt empty all week. In years past I had always held a baby in each arm pretty much for the entire week. At first I felt a little sad to have empty arms, but then I realized it was a blessing. I got to watch these kids show their unique personalities and discover the different ways they could play with each other and test the boundaries of the workers. I got to learn the different ways that each child needed to be comforted when they were missing their moms. It was the first year that the children I worked with could actually verbalize what they were feeling.

Every morning I walked to a bench before childcare had to report to our morning meeting. I sat by the rock wall with the sound of a water fountain in the background. I listened to the water while reading my devotions. Devotions that focused on the power of prayer. Let me tell you, the power of prayer is clearly apparent during this week. 

I went to camp thinking this could very well be my last year. I left camp giving hugs saying, “I’ll see you next year.” I love that place. At the end of the week I was talking to another volunteer about what we did at home. I said that I had just graduated with my masters in social work and was working on getting a job. She stopped and said, “So, you are telling me, that you take a week off from your social work job, to come do this?” I again explained that I did not have a job yet. She just responded by saying, “Still. You are a social worker and yet you consider this fun.” 

I do. It is not easy. You hear stories that break your heart. You hold two year olds until your arms feel like they are going to fall off. You do not get nearly enough sleep and you sweat like there is no tomorrow.

But I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.

 

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