This summer I have been working at a day camp for young girls. Here, we teach girls life skills through different exercises in responsibility and self-confidence, which is incorporated through scripture. This is my second summer here, and I can tell you one thing for sure, my view on the world has changed.
First, I should probably put it out there that I never really enjoyed being around children. So, why would I take a job where it is my responsibility to teach and love on these little girls? Great question.
As I began this summer, my one goal was to work on being patient. Patience has never been my strong suit, and so I prayed constantly for God to give me the gift of patience. This summer, I was also promoted to head camp counselor, where I was now not only in charge of the campers, but also our volunteers, and making sure every activity was accounted for. As a 19-year-old girl, I was kind of freaked out by all this responsibility.
The camp season was under way, and it was going pretty well. Of course, there were days when campers had temper tantrums, didn’t want to participant, or missed their moms, and that was all my responsibility to take care of. Luckily, God gave me the patience I needed at the exact times, so I wouldn’t end up having a meltdown with the campers.
This patience allowed me to grow closer to the girls. And let me tell you, kids are some of the most interesting characters to surround yourself with. They tell you how it is, especially when you don’t ask for it. These girls taught me more about myself than I think I could have learned on my own.
For example, one day I walked into camp exhausted and I had just thrown my hair half up, half down in a high pony wrapped in a scrunchie. One camper looked at me and said, “Ms. Payton, I like your hair today, it’s like really messy but cute too.” To this day, that is one of the most insulting but sweet backhanded compliments I have ever received.
Along with that, these young girls have given me unsolicited dating advice telling me that it is okay to be single. As one 7-year-old stated, “One day you will find the person you want to date forever.” Girls have also told me I look old enough to have a kid, and the next day they tell me they think I look 14.
Something that really struck a chord within me is seeing how these little girls interpret the world around them. They aren’t afraid of things, besides maybe bugs. They don’t worry about what is coming next, except what we are having for snack. They are so open to every person they meet. These girls come into camp by themselves, shyly meeting 19 new potential friends, and by the end of the week, they are setting up playdates and begging to never leave their new best friends.
I used to think I could not stand kids. Don’t get me wrong, kids who lick every single surface and constantly question everything you are doing are still not my cup of tea. But, being able to see these girls faces light up when they turn the corner, see their favorite counselor, and run up for the biggest hug, warms my heart. Especially when I am the one receiving the hug. These girls know only how to love and spread kindness with every step they take. And I can say, I am definitely a better person because of being able to spend the summer with them.
So, to the girl who claims she doesn’t like kids, spend some time with them. Why not just become a camp counselor like I did, and allow yourself to be immersed in their presence. It may not seem like the best way to spend your time at first, but I can promise you it is worth it. The love children have inside of them is immeasurable. They are the best examples of spreading God’s love, so allow yourself to take it all in. I know the girls I have spent my summer with have changed my perspective on kids as a whole, and maybe just maybe, they may change your mind too.