Written by Natasha Neustaedter Barg – A Rocha Manitoba Summer Staff
When I first applied to work at A Rocha as a day camp leader, one of the words I saw repeatedly in videos, blog posts, and their website was the word ‘wonder’.
At first I didn’t understand why this word was everywhere, but after a summer of working with A Rocha day campers I have learned to experience wonder at every turn.
Miriam Webster defines wonder (n) as: “a cause of astonishment or admiration” or “the quality of exciting amazed admiration” and the verb form as: “to feel curiosity or doubt”.
Each week we had kids aged 5-12, from a wide variety of neighbourhoods and backgrounds join us for crafts, games, nature adventures to parks and much more. The days were jam-packed and often chaotic in the best of ways, but in the moments of rest and chaos, I found myself in wonder.
I found myself in wonder of the trust the campers gave so freely.
The first week of camp, we had a five year old camper who loved to climb, run, and hide. At the end of the day on Thursday, I was sitting on the steps supervising campers playing with chalk, and he came to lie down beside me. He trusted me to give him picky back rides and not drop him, but also trusted me with his need for rest. There is something so beautiful about a child gifting you with the moments when they’re at their best but also when they’re feeling tired and sad. As we lay there, we started looking up at the clouds and letting our imaginations go wild. His favourite animal is a chicken and so we lay there imagining chickens riding horses, and playing with dogs. We had found time to rest and sit in wonder together.
I found myself in wonder at the campers’ awe of nature.
Every week we would have a time for catching critters with nets and little boxes for campers to put their finds in. The boxes had magnifying glasses in the lids and campers would gather round to look at the differences between various grasshoppers, ants and ladybugs. There was one camper who became absolutely enthralled with catching critters and was quite good at it as well. At one point he managed to catch a butterfly with blue wings. While I was a little worried it would suffocate or get injured in the container, this camper was determined to study and learn about it more. The pride he had in finding this animal and learning about it, as well as the fierce curiosity he had, was a reminder to be open to what creation could teach me. I was left in wonder for the rest of the day.
I found myself in wonder of the power of imagination and care for others.
It was such a joy to work with campers and learn to see the world through their eyes. Everything is simultaneously simpler and more complex through a child’s perspective. Often, I was struck by how the campers would care for each other and look out for each other. They’d encourage each other to try new things, give each other hugs when one person was sad and show up for each other in ways that adults often forget to. For them, the response to show care and love to anyone and everyone is simple.
These campers were also so keen to imagine and think outside of the box. One day I was walking back from a park with a camper and they decided that to jump over each crack in the sidewalk was to jump from one planet to another. The specks in the cement were stars and people’s homes, roads were galaxies, and we were the giants jumping through these new worlds.
At every twist and turn throughout the day I found myself in wonder at the campers’ abilities to give back, and to surprise me with their love for nature, their curiosity, their kindness, their questions, and their imagination and care.