(NOTE: This is a continuation of a series about my week as a counselor at Royal Family Kids Camp, a camp for foster children, most of whom have been the victim of some kind of abuse. To read what’s gone before, see the links at the bottom of this post.)
After our shopping spree, Wednesday proceeded through the normal camp schedule: activity centers, Kids’ Club, lunch,and an actual quiet time when exhausted campers and counselors napped for a few minutes. Then it was time for swimming.
With my foot wrapped and swollen, I opted out of getting into my swimsuit. Jane had decided she preferred swimming in filtered,
chlorinated water, so I supervised her at the pool while Judi took our other three to the more adventurous waters of The Pond. I found a chair with some other counselors in a shady corner where I thought I’d be safe from splashing and runoff from the swimmers. In my planning, however, I failed to take into consideration the many toys that were floating in the pool. It wasn’t long before I found myself staring down the barrel of a Super Soaker held by one of the girls from Dorm Room #1. She was on a mission, but at least she was polite about it.
“Miss Linda, can I squirt you?”
“Sure, why not?”
Her aim was true, and she did a fine job of soaking me. As she laughed in triumph, I had to admit that it was rather refreshing, and the Texas heat dried me out before the session was over.
After swim time, we were scheduled for a special activity center called Imagination Station. It was a place where the kids could use their imaginations to open their minds not only to dreams for the future but also to possibilities for the here and now. Similar to the shopping spree of earlier in the day, there were racks of costumes to choose from. But in addition to fancy dresses, there were also uniforms of various first responders, jerseys from a number of sports teams, and a selection of super hero costumes. Campers arrived in small groups by appointment, and for the first few minutes, they were given free rein to choose a costume that fired their imagination.
Once they were dressed, each camper in turn went to a private corner of the room with Miss Cher, the insightful lady who directed Imagination Station. She positioned the camper in front of a full-length mirror and asked them what they saw. With gentle questions and suggestions, she encouraged the camper to see beyond the hurt and abuse in their past and see the truth that they were fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and that God knows the plans He has for them. (Jeremiah 29:11).
After each girl had looked at herself in the “magic mirror,” Miss Cher had them sit in a semi-circle around her as she talked to them about what they saw. She reinforced the positive messages she had given them earlier, and she gave each one a small rock that was painted with a word to help them remember it later. The girls listened with wide-eyed attention, and the counselors listened and wiped away tears.
Jane had said she wanted to dress like Jennifer Lopez. She found another pink dress – it was her color – along with matching accessories including a rhinestone studded microphone. The ever-present photographer snapped several pictures of her. Her first poses looked like she was having a driver’s license photo or a mug shot taken. But with a little encouragement, she loosened up a bit and let her dimple and her personality shine through. Miss Cher talked about her underlying confidence and how her strength would see her through even the hard times.
Sue found a slinky black dress that was slit up one side, and she accessorized with a black feather boa and strappy platform heels. She pranced around and posed for the photographer as if she had been a model all her life. But when it came her turn in front of the mirror, she wouldn’t look at herself. The self-assured, I-know-it-all-and-can-do-everything tween was gone, and in her place was a timid little girl with no sense of self. I didn’t hear most of what Miss Cher said to her. I was too busy processing the realization that she continuously told the world how wonderful she was because she didn’t believe she was worth anything at all.
I prayed that the positives messages would stay with the girls, but we didn’t have time to dwell on them for long. It was time for Chapel, then dinner, and then the Birthday Party!
For more information, go to the Royal Family Kids website.