Saturday, September 4, 2010

They are the Roses

By now, I'm pretty sure all of you are sick and tired of me going on and on, and on...about camp. However, there are few more things I want to say before I close the "camp" chapter for a while. Be forewarned, however, this entry is going to be a bit of a rant--just some things that have been weighing on my mind that I feel the blogging world may benefit (?) to hear.

First things first, I'm not the type to walk around correcting people's grammar all the time...goodness knows this combination of crazy dialects I've got going on means nothing less than frequent improper use of words, as well as those words I create myself. I will say, though, there are are a few phrases or spellings of words that drive me absolutely bananas. Here's one of my biggest pet peeves:

Using phrases like--the handicapped, special needs kids/people (as demonstrated in a variety of ways: diabetic kids, autistic kids, etc.), the poor, and the list goes on. When people say these phrases I want to yell, "HAVEN'T YOU HEARD OF PEOPLE-FIRST LANGUAGE??" For those of you who don't know, "people-first language" is a concept, if you will, featured in federal legislation concerning individuals with special needs. [Not stating the exact act here because I'd rather not post something unless I'm positive it's the correct one, so ask if you're interested.]

To What does "people-first language" translate? It means that federal law mandates us to empasize that someone WITH disabilities is a PERSON FIRST. What's the difference, you might ask? It's the difference between "special needs kids" and "kids WITH special needs," or "He is autistic" and "He HAS autism." Note the emphasis is on the person WITH a disability. Individuals are people first; they enjoy the same things we do, love the same way (often times even deeper) we do, and --forgive the side rant here-- were created in the likeness and image of God, just like us! For this, we owe them the decency to recognize that they are indeed people, not freaks of nature we have to "just deal with" in society.

Now, I realize that most people do this without even thinking about it. It's what we hear in everyday conversation. Saying the words, "She is dyslexic" versus "She has dyslexia," takes but ONE extra letter! Is it really that much extra work to place value on a person for who they are, not what they have? These habits are tough to break, I know it. People-first language was brought to my attention years ago, and sometimes I stll catch myself saying something wrong. But, I feel like once I learned to understand the concept, my eyes and ears were put on high alert, and now I notice it all the time.

It's crazy to me how often phrases like these are misused in our everday life. Media use it all the time, and it drives me nuts. These are the people who set the bar for terms we use in life, because it is often the first time we hear about these concepts. For an industry that prides itself on being "politically correct," they do a very poor job of showing it when it comes to people with disabilities. I wish someone would slap them on the head and enroll every last one of them in a disabilities awareness course. Maybe then, the rest of America would come to understand how to show respect and awareness for a large group of its citizens that are all too often ignored and pushed under the rug.

And while we're on the subject of syntax, I've got another little peeve for you. 4-H is spelled just like that: 4 (dash) H, or, 4-H. 4-H is not the same as "4H." Stop being lazy or ignorant and use the dash, please. Why is it such a big deal? Would you want YOUR name spelled wrong all the time? No, 4-H isn't a person, but it is legitimate organization with a name and emblem that literally has the same type of federal protection as the U.S. Presidential seal. Oh--and--it's just "4-H" not "the 4-H." For some reason, people seem to make this mistake all the time too. Anyway, could we please give 4-H the respect and identity that it deserves? Mkay, thanks. (Don't say I didn't warn you ahead of time about the rants, haha.)

Switching back to the camp thing, there is something else I have been wanting to write about. Most people are intrigued whenever I tell them that I work at a camp for children with special needs. They're even more facinated whenever I get into the nitty-gritty details about the type of care we as counselors provide for our campers. The intense personal and medical care that we give becomes second nature to those of us who do it day in and day out, but many folks find it to be strange that we are (1) allowed/trained to give this type of care and (2) that we are willing to give care that would make most people very uncomfortable.

Often times, when someone learns about the intensity that is camp, a myriad of questions arise. These range from, "Tell me more," to, "Why did you decide to work there?" Sometimes, people say things like, "That must be a really tough job," or "You are such an angel for those kids; you make a huge difference in those kids' lives; bless your heart for being so good to those children." I realize that most of the time, people are genuninely interested and really want to express their support for what we do whenever they say these things. However, I always feel a little tug at my innards whenever the comments make me feel as though the person has pitty on me, or even on the campers, for the situations in which we are faced. Sometimes, it's as if that person has placed me (and the counselors in general) on this pedastol for the job that we do, because it's something that many people don't understand or could not picture themselves doing. It is implied that the children are so lucky to have us in their lives, or to have people who are willing to care for them and provide a "normal" camp experience.

If anyone were to ask the campers or their parents about their camp experience, it is likely that many of them would say the counselors make a world of difference in their week at camp. However, my fellow counselors and I have had many discussions about how we are so grateful that parents are willing to trust us with the care of their children for a whole week; that is no easy task for them. We feel blessed to have the opportunity to work with some of the best kids on the face of this planet. We are the lucky ones. Every week, we develop such love and attachment to these kids that they may as well be our own--we think of them as OUR kids--and treat them as such. The life of a counselor is changed for all of eternity after just one summer at such a special place. We counselors beg and pine and dream for 9 months, looking forward to the following summer of reuniting with our kids, and the camp family that has woven itself so deeply into our hearts.

So while I understand that when people make comments about how lucky campers are, they are truly just trying to show support for what we do, I wish they were able to understand that I am the one who is lucky here. I'm the one who benefits from having the privlege to work with such wonderful kids. I'm on the receiving end of the deal, no matter what people want to think.

In the grand scheme of things, I guess, it really is a full-circle sort of thing; everyone wins--the campers, their parents, aaand the camp staff. And people wonder what brings us back, year after year. Speaking of which, if anyone wants to develop a time machine that would set the calendar to be summertime all year round, please let me know. What I wouldn't give to live in the camp bubble forever...

Anyway, I apologize for such a long post. Please don't take it as though I wrote this rant in a bad mood or with negative feelings; I know some of it probably comes off that way. What I really mean with all of this is that there were some thoughts weighing on my mind that I really needed to get out. None of what I wrote is a personal attack against anyone in particular, so if you happen to fit the bill for anything mentioned in my rants, please don't think it's my passive-aggressiveness trying to call you out. Blogs are for expression, and I did just that.

With that all being said, I plan to refrain from making this an "all things camp" blog for a while. Maybe I'll ressurect the subject again in a few months, when I'm feeling particularly sad about missing camp. For now though, start to expect some more current topics, such as this fresh new year of grad school and all things North Carolinian. It's already shaping up to be an interesting one, so I hope everyone stays tuned!

And I guess your final installment of summer reading fell perfectly on Labor Day weekend. Congratulations, it's officially time to celebrate the Fall season! Yay!


PS: Reflecting on my rants (while trying to think of a title for this entry), I am reminded of song by Jessica Andrews, "They are the Roses." Check it out; you'll see why.

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