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A life lesson..

He embraced me with all his strength, I could not move as he gripped me, hoping never to let go. In August, 2008, I decided to go to Camp Hope for the second time. This camp, held biannually, asks for volunteers from different schools to take care of campers who generally have mental retardation, Down syndrome, or other disorders which disable them from fully functioning. I was assigned to Chriscencio, a camper who appeared to suffer from Down syndrome to the extent that it was hard to communicate with him. Dark skinned, with little hair, it would seem Chriscencio was in his late 40’s, or 50’s. Although he did not have the mentality of a young boy, he struggled with basic problems such as balance and fluent communication. The work at this camp is truly a heart-felt gift for the parents or caretakers of these campers, who get a break from the non-stop attention their child requires. Although in my first camp it was emotionally stressful, and very difficult to deal with, I got to know these campers, and with open arms helped them through their difficulties, so they could enjoy the activities, and most importantly, have a great time.

As I try to trace back my memories, I can only recall walking over to my camper’s side on Sunday morning, the last day at camp. I stood by his side, as he squeezed me, in tears. His eyes watered quicker than when he joyfully submerged into the pool, as he was truly grateful for the time I had spent with him. Looking back, I can’t express the powerful effect his unclear words and simple life had on me. These campers live in pure happiness. They appreciate the little things that come their way; they find the slightest of reasons to brighten their days. And this is precisely what puzzles me. I truly feel disgusted that I actually complained about anything in my life. My parents’ spoon served me from a golden platter, and yet I still asked for more. The thought of such arrogance now humbles me, as I look at my past in disappointment. Although it was slightly difficult to communicate with Chriscencio, he taught me a lesson which I am forever thankful for. No gastes el tiempo esperando perder lo que tienes para saber su importancia, dale valor a todo en la vida, y no habrĂ¡ nada que perder. In other words, don’t waste your time waiting to lose what you have to know its importance, give value to everything in life, and you won’ t have anything to lose. It was then that my own eyes dripped with joy; I couldn’t grasp what a great person I was given the pleasure of spending time with.

Perhaps overheard, and overstated, I can’t help but recall my parents remind me as a child, ‘Uno no sabe lo que tiene, hasta que lo pierde…’. These powerful words only take meaning as you lose what before was taken for granted to then value its importance. However, to truly encompass what I experienced at Camp Hope, I can’t help but defy my parents’ valuable lesson, as these people fought their disabilities by valuing the little they had, without having to lose it. That in itself encompasses a person I can only hope to be, and for this lesson, I am, and forever will be, grateful.


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