By Jubilee Dueck Thiessen – A Rocha Manitoba Summer Worker
As I wrap up my summer work with A Rocha Manitoba and reflect back on our day camps and experiences with the kids, Jesus’ encouragement to be like little children permeates my reflections. When asked who is the greatest in the kingdom of God in Matthew 18, Jesus tells the disciples that those who can be like little children will enter the kingdom of God. While this verse is quoted often and could easily be dismissed as cheesy in the context I am referring to here, it best articulates what I learned from little children at day camp.
As a responsible employee, I often find myself consumed by the pressure I put upon myself to do my job perfectly, to make no mistakes and to have things run smoothly. Between a busy schedule and up to 25 kids to look out for, my personality as a fun and wonder-filled day camp leader can become lost in the anxiety and stress that occurs when things do not go as planned. Thunderstorms, wasp bites, and rogue children do not leave much time for pausing to marvel at the wonders of life. It was in stressful times such as these that our kids at day camp reminded me to be more like them.
When my instinct was to find shelter and stay dry in the rain, the kids ran out into the downpour and played, dancing and delighting in the power of the storm. Wasp bites were compared for size and painfulness, celebrated as bravery in the face of adversity.
The children also regularly drew my attention to things I might have missed or overlooked, if not for their small size and lack of experience. They often gathered to observe and name bugs that I was too busy to notice, wondering at what life must be like from its perspective. I do not remember the first time I ate a carrot straight from the garden and now take the earthy taste for granted, but campers that were once sceptical about eating carrots from Metanoia farm were flooded with excitement after taking a bite, in disbelief that a fresh carrot could taste so good. I had expected resistance from the kids (they do not normally love vegetables), but one boy said that the carrots were so good he wished he could have them for dessert, and decided he needed to find a space to plant carrots in his garden next year so he could have as many as he wanted.
While we were dissecting tiger lilies one day, the kids noticed how the yellow pollen stuck to their fingers. One little girl got really excited about this and yelled to the group that she had discovered natural face paint.
Though an adult’s natural instinct might be to stop her as she proceeded to cover her nose with the yellow pollen, her excitement about the discovery reminded us that there is delight in messiness.
My summer working as a day camp leader re-focused my awareness of the little things; the small observations that should be celebrated and delighted in. Unexpected wasp bites and sudden downpours that soaked us reminded us of the goal of our day camps: to be filled with wonder as we explored God’s creation. As we are pulled deeper into deadlines and the busy focus of the fall, I hope to find joyful opportunities to be more like the little children.