Imagine 30 kids around 4 tables working on arts and crafts at a summer camp in the backwoods. All these children were between the ages of about 6 to 12 and all came from troubled backgrounds. I was a counselor at Camp HOPE a few weeks ago and this one moment made the biggest impact on me.
It was only the second day of this camp and I was actually on my “break.” The camp gave us counselors an hour break each day because of the high stress that went with this role. We lived in the tents with these children all week; we were friends, mentors, and disciplinarians. We were working with some amazing kids.
I was sitting all by myself trying to just soak in the moment of watching these kids play. The motto of the camp was “Giving Children Their Childhood Back.” The camp was centered around family justice centers across California. As I sat there, I watched these kids from across the room make butterfly catchers and watercolor paintings. They were filled with joy and simply having fun without worrying about societal gang pressures back home or dealing with domestic violence. But there was this one girl that had the greatest impact on me throughout this entire camp.
Thoughts were flooding my mind about what these kids must be going through back home and I stared blankly across the room. My eyes locked with this little girl who was 9 years old. I’d only been at camp a few days and hadn’t had a chance to connect or even get this girls name. When our eyes met, I smiled at her in a loving and compassionate way. She smiled back. My eyes wonder some more and than came back to her. She was still looking at me. I smiled again giving my sincere heart to her through our connection.
She eager got back to her arts and crafts. We were far enough to where I couldn’t see what she was working on. Suddenly, she starts to walk towards me. She was carrying stuff in her hands that I couldn’t see. She came over to me with her long red pony tails and the biggest smile. And…
She said, “I made these for you. Pick one!” I looked down at her hands and in her left hand was a bracelet made out of that colored, fuzzy, wire hanger like stuff that kids play with. In her right hand, was a beautiful necklace made out of strings and colorful paper. I smiled back in sheer surprise at her offering. In my head, I was shocked. I was speechless. I didn’t know what to say so I smiled again and pointed to the bracelet. I said, “Thank you Lillian” as I quickly glanced at her name tag. It was the purest and most heart warming act of kindness someone had giving me in the longest time.
The simple act of smiling at someone else. She than brought over her sign of reciprocated love. This was a tangible act of love that so many of us struggle with on a daily basis.
Often I’m at the gym and eagerly want to simply say hi or smile at someone. Often I’m walking on the sidewalk past someone and awkwardly trying to make eye contact with someone. Whether its someone playing Pokemon Go, listening to Drake in their headphones, or desperately trying to avoid contact with another human being on their way to wherever is more important; I urge you that the power of a smile, appreciation, and/or acknowledgment is simply what loving someone looks, sounds, and feels like.
Lillian was craving someone to show her love, attention, respect, and worth for being. Why did I write this today? Two reasons. The first is I’m committing to writing at least something everyday because the act of writing daily and making small steps towards our goals is important. Recently, I’ve awakened my goals, specifically my focus towards personal development of others. The second reason is because I believe God sometimes produces thoughts in our head. We do our best to control our thoughts and meditate on our power of intentions but sometimes things come in that we can’t filter. Many times I may feel alone and eagerly want to make contact with a physical human being right in front of me. I try and am avoided, looked at funny, or awkwardly acknowledged. I want to say hi but ego or things get in the way.
We desire love in one form or another. I invite you today to give peace and significance to someone like Lillian, like Freddie, like yourself.