OK, Here’s the thing. I work at a camp for children, youth, and adults with disabilities and people tell me and my camp colleagues all the time that we’re “heroes” for doing what we do.
We’re just people. Working with other people. It’s that simple.
Working at my camp doesn’t make my staff special – they get the job because they’re already special and wonderful, and the campers benefit from that, but there’s nothing heroic about doing the job. In fact, everyone who has worked at my camp would tell you it’s a privilege to work with our group of campers, not any kind of sacrifice or heroic act.
Know what else?
Our campers aren’t heroes for having disabilities either. We don’t think they’re inspiring for just getting out of bed in the morning, and we don’t think things like “well, if they can do it, I have no excuses for not doing it” – because that’s unfair to them. They never asked to be anybody’s inspiration or be put on a pedestal – that’s exhausting! And there’s a name for that type of attitude; it’s called inspiration porn.
Girl with the cane covers the topic really well on her blog in this post. (If you’re going to check it out, I recommend you read the comment section as well, there’s some great discussion around the topic)
Our campers are just people.
Just like anyone else they have a full range of emotions and complex relationships. They’re not being heroic for living their life… they’re just livin’ life!
So, now that we’re clear that people with disabilities aren’t heroes simply for having a disability, and people who work with them aren’t heroes simply for working with them, I can say that I see heroes at camp all the time.
Summer camp breeds heroes. I see heroes born in the small moments at camp.
- When a counsellor comforts a homesick camper in the middle of the night, even though she’s exhausted, and cold, and kind of homesick herself. Her hug, thoughtful words, and gentle kindness make that camper feel safe and okay. In that moment she is a hero.
- When a camper motivates a friend to challenge himself and try something new. His excitement, support, and encouraging words make him a hero.
- When a staff member stands up for his beliefs even though they might be unpopular, he’s being heroic by showing others that it’s ok to be yourself, and it’s ok to be different.
- When a camper inspires younger campers because of her success or accomplishments (not her accomplishments despite her disability – just her accomplishments . Period.) she is their hero.
- When a co-staff whips out a box of wet wipes while you stare forlornly at your group of campers with hands and faces covered in marshmallow goo… and the inevitable layer of dirt that somehow accompanies sticky marshmallows. THEY are a hero by anyone’s standards.
There are so many examples of campers and staff being heroes at camp that I could go on and on, but I won’t.
I’ve found that it’s the little things that matter. We CAN be heroes, just by making those small choices to be kind, to stand up, encourage, forgive, give love, be patient, and sometimes… rock a purple cape.
So while I think it’s unfair to force the title of hero on people who are just livin’ life and hanging out with other cool people, I think it’s awesome to celebrate the heroic moments that we get to witness every day at summer camp.
What types of heroic moments have you witnessed/ experienced at camp? Tell me about it in the comment section below.
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