Working at a Day Camp this summer has challenged me in an invigorating and profound way. While I did expect to gain some valid and legitimate work experience, I never believed I would learn so much about myself. After all, I’m working with 5-7 year olds. There’s no way they are anything like me, right? Wrong. Although I may be a little more aged and experienced, I still need to be learning everyday. With a closed mind, that is impossible. And that’s the mindset I went into Camp with: “What can I teach these kids?” The reality, is that these kids have taught me much more than I could ever teach them.
When in the workplace, there are really three mentalities: indifference, mediocrity, and exceptional diligence. You can either choose to hide and simply sustain yourself to earn money, you can meet the expectations set by your employer, or you can try to exceed the standards set by your supervisors. I’ve learned this summer that the latter option is extremely tiring—but also extremely worth it. That’s what I had tried to do from my first day at Camp, but I soon realized that it was unattainable and unsustainable if I was going to rely on my own abilities (and my own sleep patterns). How could I go above and beyond for these kids? How could I make sure all of their needs were met? Well, I really couldn’t, on account of my own flaws. The first two weeks of Camp, I found myself falling flat on my face. There were a manifold of situations that I wish I had handled more humbly, and I was not exactly thrilled with my performance so far. I am now halfway done with my work experience this summer, and it has finally hit me that love is the secret to my success at Camp. The only thing, though, is that it is not the type of love we commonly prescribe in this world. It is the type of love only owned by God himself: agape love.
My intentions in citing agape, is to demonstrate just how important it is in understanding and in growth. When a child would cry at Camp, I would find myself more frustrated than loving. Instead of radiating comfort, I was likely echoing annoyance. The fix for this, in my daily life, is to imagine myself as the child. In this case, if I were to cry about something that was taken away from me, I would also be frustrated. And I realized that this situation is actually a microcosm for life itself. We, as “adults”, tend to become heavily enraged when God introduces pain and struggle into our lives, when in reality, he is demonstrating pure and supreme agape love by not giving us exactly what we want. The kids I work with often cry and pout when they lose in Gaga, when someone cuts them in line, or when we go to a station they don’t particularly like. And likewise; don’t we all do the same? We may pretend that our struggles are larger and more mature, but really—are they? I would think not.
So the answer to this enigma that has recently plagued my mind is not to ever believe you are done learning. God is always going to give us struggles and tests so that we can become strengthened through Him. Children are too young to understand a variety of issues, but also are we.
As I handle struggles moving forward at Camp, my solutions will not entail simply trying to “make the child stop crying,” but to actually engage in an active lesson for the child—with me learning alongside him/her. Because true agape isn’t just trying to hide the problem; it is showing the child that we don’t always get what we want, but we will always have the support we need in Him. It’s not an easy lesson to learn, but it is one that reaps benefits for the soul.