When trying to take the time to sit down and write this, it seemed like it was one of the hardest things to do. I had convinced myself that I would do it in due time. However, obviously by the date of this you can tell this is the only later I have come to know. In trying to really understand and delve into my experiences as first as an after school member, to a church goer, to a camp counselor, to now...there are a lot of things to be grateful and thankful for. Most of all though, it is for one person to say they believe in you and have that change your whole world.
As an after school member I hardly really remember coming to, but what I do remember was learning how to double dutch, which at the time seemed like the most complex things. Jumping with one rope was in my past, for two was always better than one. I remember the van ride that picked us up from Mission Grammar. I remember never wanting to do homework...I mean I know the reason for me coming is to get work done, but I could always do it at home. I never understood why we had to be quiet during homework time either, I mean multitasking was a specialty of all children. We could possibly do homework and converse. And for a long time I could not understand how a women who was shorter than me could make one sound and quietness would hush any mouth and even as short as she was, she always knew when one person in a room full of 30 kids, was still talking. But many days when we would be hushed, she was not telling us only to be quiet, rather she was telling us stories of what she wanted each of us to be and that was greatness. I for one do not remember a story she told, if you ask me now, but I remember asking why? Why was it so important for us to become great. I mean were we destined to become anything we wanted and she wanted us to become great. What was so good about that? It was more than becoming great, rather she was probably for most, the first person to say to a child how much she believed they could amount to anything they put their mind to. Maybe for me as these questions arised in my own mind, I wanted to make her proud. So when she promised she would always hold a spot for me as a camp counselor, I made sure I took her up on that offer. Even though I had switched schools, had only seen her in church every Sunday, she reminded me every Sunday of her promise; asking me my age every Sunday as well.
When I started in 2004, 14 years of age I was by far the most nervous there. I didn't know what she or the person I would be working with expected. Luckily my first year I had the privilege of working with Andy and Dominque. They showed me by example what they were doing and I followed, always asking if it was correct, not wanting to mess up. After that year had passed it got easier. The next year Ben came and I was still working alongside Dominque as Andy left and it was much easier to get comfortable. The year after that I was now in charge of my own group. I think I asked Sister Mary about five different times, if she was sure. I told her I was fine working with Dominque. She looked at me and said, "You are ready. You can't keep walking in the shadows of someone else. You must do it on your own now and I believe you can. Now stop asking me if I am sure. You think I don't know what I am doing?" I sure did not want to be the one to tell her she didn't know what she was doing and she was wrong so I came in that summer prepared...well over prepared but by the second week I got the hang of it and I had the confidence not only to lead my group but also train someone else who may like me have to take my place one day.
Throughout the years, Ben and I took the train together discussing the day and the kids, how they had their own personalities. We discussed what worked that day, what didn't, what we could expect the next day, the next week, and even the next year. And as the years went on and we have seen every person come in and go out; we've had some hard years and some questionable years, but always knowing in the back of our mind one day we would have to be the ones who would not come in again, rather we would be the one who would go out. And this year we will. It is hard knowing the comfort of having a job that is so good. It is a job that is challenging but we smile more than if I was working any other job. We get more hugs than if I was even holding a "free hugs" sign during Christmas at Downtown Crossing. We are greeted most days with smiles and even though Ms. Grayson has her ways, you can clearly see even through her own sarcastic manner she enjoys what she does. So trading the smiles, the screams, the singing, the years, and the warmth of hugs, to enter the "real world," I can only be grateful for the memories as those. I can be appreciative for getting to know a heroine like Sister Mary and even as her memory lives on and children come in and out of the program many of them are too young to know the woman who the camp now is dedicated to. We can only hope through the shared memories of laughs and bringing her up and the few who do know her carry on. We can only hope that she is never forgotten, for a person like her, can never be forgotten. I can pray that she watched over me finding a place like hers and hopefully my love for children will not fade.