forever learning

Last week I was a leader for my church's summer girls' camp.  In addition to getting to know the girls better, I felt that I learned a few lessons myself.

As a leader, I needed to ask the girls to do lots of stuff, from cleaning latrines to going on hikes, practicing our skit to heading to dinner. There were times that I dealt out tough love and there were times that I was a softie.  It's a spectrum, of course, and each situation needed to be handled in its own particular way. I usually didn't give it much thought and just went with my gut.

Oblivious me: braiding clover
instead of paying attention.
It was reinforced—and it might be an obvious lesson to other people—that not only is every situation different, but every individual is unique as well.  I'm not just talking about people having a variety of personalities (I'm not that obtuse), but that every person has their own history of experiences and circumstances that shapes them. People might react differently due to physical or mental illness, or traumatic experiences that they have had in their lives.  These are obviously extreme examples, but even a relatively common situation, like a break-up with a boyfriend or bad grades in school, can cause a shift in a person's mind and attitude.

A difficult thing with teenagers is that they're starting to be affected by longer-term problems pretty consistently—it seems like they carry their emotions and memories for longer periods of time. Additionally, teenagers are mature enough to keep bigger secrets, and so leaders don't necessarily know what's going on in their lives behind-the-scenes. These things wouldn't be an issue for me if I wasn't expected to keep them on track in various ways. They aren't mature enough to take care of themselves and their responsibilities completely.

Even when I'm not coaxing people to do things, I often judge them without knowing their situation.  She's buying that for her kids?  Did he really just say that?  I know it's not right, but I try not to let it show.  I also try not to be judgmental in the first place, but not letting it show is the first step.  It's harder when you need to take action in conjunction with your judgements.  For guiding people to action, it's about finding the right set point between sympathetic and severe, and it's rarely in the same place twice, even for the same person.

I didn't make any horrific mistakes at camp, but I felt like I made lots of small ones. I can't imagine what it's like to be a parent. Thankfully, the girls were incredibly forgiving, and taught me to be a little bit better all around.

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