To all of those who are in college or simply elect to be paid ten dollars an hour for the pure joy of working outside and fostering love of the natural world in the next generation, I salute you.
We wake at 6:45 every morning, blearily pack our lunches- peanut butter and jelly, adult style (aka, nine seed, sprouted whole grain fermented bread with almond butter and organic, raw current jam)- and head out to our camp location. For some, it may be a park, for others, the fish technology center, still others, the local elementary school. For most, you’ve probably broken a sweat at some point in order to arrive to work on time. You lug your backpack stuffed full of art kits, first aid kits, snack kits, kitten kits, water kits, science kits, hammer kits, wildflower kits, animal kits, game kits, food kits, reading kits, and your coffee, which all clocks in at a-hell-of-a-lot-more-weight-than-any-sane-person-should-or-would-carry-on-their-backs pounds, over to your meeting spot, ready to take on the day.
You put on your smile, or, if you are really lovin’ life, you actually smile because you get to work outside all day, and greet parents, patiently listening and remembering all the small and important details that go into the day, the small changes in pickups, the paperwork, the snack that he or she cannot have, the extra requests for sunscreen and bugs pray, and you nod and agree to comply with every request. You-somehow- remember all these requests throughout the day and the kids come out with three fewer bug bites than the would have received otherwise.
You walk slowly through the activities, hoping to all hopes that your kiddos latch on to the activities you’ve devised because nothing is worse than losing momentum during camp and having to come up with a game on the fly when your brain is increasing in chaos level as the number of things to remember continues to pile up. You blink, and-thank God- it’s lunchtime. Every hour is lunchtime, as far as kids are concerned so you can really eat whenever you want. Eating camp! Yay! There’s a moment of peace while everyone is muted by the necessity of putting food into their talking holes and then it’s over and you’re back to action.
Around one o’clock, everyone’s brain has turned to mush. You see peculiar behaviors such as a camper pouring out their entire bottle of water just…because. You ask them while looking into their eyes if they need to go to the bathroom, but it’s too late- you’ve already spotted the disastrous glaze over their eyes that tells you that there bodies may be breathing but they are no longer there. Exhaustion has set in. You see this and realize that while you thought you asked them if they needed to go to the bathroom you asked if they know where the band room is and that you’re actually the one who needs to use the potty in this situation.
You’re in luck, though, because the day is almost done. Everyone sits for a while, writing in their nature journals before piling into the bus, where, if you’ve done your job well (and you’re lucky), they are simply sitting, quietly perusing the work they’ve done that day in their journals. You sign them out for the day and suddenly you’re done. You have the whole afternoon to yourself, maybe you should just go to sleep.
But you don’t. No, instead you do all the things that you’ve been telling yourself you would do. You go climb, you do your writing, you do your out of work assignments, you read, and even though the sun is out FOREVER in the Northern hemisphere right now, it’s suddenly night time, and you finally have permission to go to sleep.
There are no dreams. There is only sweet, sweet, oblivion. You’ve worked your body and brain so hard for the sake of environmental education that you are rewarded with true, deep, sleep. Even with all the other perks of being a camp counselor, this restful well being is in the top three.
P.S. After writing this post, I learned the value of carefully choosing team names. It may behoove you, for instance, to avoid calling your team the “Thorny Hedgehogs” lest you accidentally scream “HORNY HEDGEHOGS!” during team cheer instead. Good luck.