Every single time I meet new people, I replay the mantra that has been spoken to me since birth- be an expression of love. Be an expression of radical kindness and empathy. Life moves so quickly and I find myself making the motions but not always being fully present when loving others. I've been in serious need of time to slow down. Breathe. Look people in the eye and have conversations that stimulate the sleepy parts of myself. The parts that know this life means relatively nothing if I can't share my experiences, listen to others, learn, support, and love.
This knowledge that I needed a little change prompted me to volunteer for a few days at Camp Krem. Camp Krem is a camp for adults and children with disabilities located in northern California, in Boulder Creek. It's on a camp ground tucked on rolling hills and surrounded by lush trees, the whole landscape is so picturesque and comforting- the scenery of what our world looks like when we allow things to thrive and grow instead of trying to alter and change.
I was in a cabin with the most wonderful ladies. The campers have disabilities that range from Down Syndrome, Autism, Global Developmental Delay, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, William's Syndrome, and more. I am not trained in special education and before I went I thought about what I should prepare myself for and try to understand.
Arriving at Camp Krem, I quickly learned no specific set of skills was needed besides patience, love, and the ability to drop judgments. You spend your days singing, dancing, creating, and learning from people who just want to feel part of something greater, people that just want to feel unconditional love and have fun. I was so humbled and blown away. The camp has little to no cell service, getting ready consist of throwing on sunscreen, bug spray, and clothes already thick with dirt and dust, and the occasional costume when there's a dance party to go to. (And the campers know how to party). Here's a photo of one dancing in a Cruella De Vil costume.
|view from the arts and crafts building|
|We had a protest day, all about peace and love|
I posted this photo on my Instagram with the caption:
Today I walked and danced around camp with a girl who has Down Syndrome, pins in her hips and bad knees. Every few steps she would say, "yay!" And "I did it!" 3 minute walks took 30, but it didn't matter. Celebrating every small victory, she would say the words so genuinely, giving me her biggest smile that made her whole face scrunch up. Goodness, I want to live my life with her enthusiasm and perseverance. Everything is valued, nothing is too hard or too serious. Mundane moments are made into magic. Every single second is a blessing, happiness is unlimited. Dozing off with the fullest heart, learning how to appreciate the life I have in a whole new way 💤
I love helping and serving but I learned that without these experiences, I would not be okay or capable of becoming my best self. These incredibly lovely people helped me, taught me, and showed me how good life is when you just let go and embrace the natural ebb and flow of things, how everything eventually goes as it should and that a meaningful life is one where you don't alter what already is but instead embrace it with open arms and a warm heart.
On my last day, a radiant women in her 60's who is blind and has autism, was sitting with me as we made crafts together. She made beautiful earrings for everyone at camp, feeling the beads, asking their colors, and then placing them together. I would tie the ends and wait for her to create her next pair. She asked to feel my jacket. Then she asked what color it was. I told her blue.
"What kind of blue?"
"A light blue."
"What does it remind you of?"
I have never looked at an article of clothing or a color and thought about what it reminded me of. Surprised I replied,
"Like the sky, first thing in the morning. Or the beginning of the ocean."
She sat with her hand on the jacket and said,
"What does that make you feel like?"
I could have cried right there. I never reflect on how a single color makes me feel, or where it takes me. I just see it, because I have my sight and it is so often taken for granted.
I told her what the color made me feel like and then she asked me about the beads, if the sun can go through them and what they look like then. She asked me what the color red makes me think of, what it makes me feel. I told her how much I liked to read and what words look like on a page, and I thought of how every single time I read I feel apart of something greater than myself. It was this whole reflective, life-changing conversation with someone I may have overlooked anywhere else. And that fact alone made me feel a little ashamed at first, how many people have I passed or made assumptions about, when in reality they had more to teach me than I could teach them?
And so everyday I will say thank you. I will be kinder than necessary. I will look at my limbs and thank my legs for carrying me everywhere I've ever wanted to go, I will read with the new appreciation that my eyes can so easily dance along the page and treasure every word. I will pass people and say hello, meet strangers and help them, ask how people are and not just want to hear "fine" or "okay" but actually what they are feeling. I will help and give because I have an abundant, wonderful life. Even when I feel like I don't.
I will look at the sky early in the morning and remember what it's light blue color makes me feel: that there is hope in everyday, value in every life, and magic hidden in the ordinary sights I've often overlooked.
To learn more about Camp Krem and find out about employment and volunteer opportunities, click here.