I was in Oakhurst, California, working at the United Youth Camp during my vacation the last week of June.
I was the water supervisor and lifeguard down at Bass Lake and every one of the 174 campers visited “Fred’s World” at least twice during the week. Speed boats, skiing, inner tubes and great water-being located at the lake all day was nice duty…long hours but nice duty.
In the Hot Seat
When I returned to my lifeguard station after one lunch break I found that one of the young fellows had grabbed my seat. I chased the little rascal away with a good-natured grin. I had one of the best locations for visibility, and seemingly the only comfortable chair on the lake front. It figured that one of the fellows would try to snatch it from me.
Being in my chair was not really a problem. That was, until I looked down and saw that the young man had sat without looking, and had crushed my Panama Jack straw hat and my sun glasses.
Arrgh! That hat had been with me for years and years. It had traveled with me everywhere-Alaska, Hawaii, the West Coast, the East Coast, down the Florida Keys and aboard cruise ships… I loved that hat!
Why, I took that little #$%^& aside and beat him sens…well, no. That may have been an immediate impulse, but instead I grumbled loudly for a bit letting everyone know I wasn’t the happiest of souls. Then, putting emotion aside, my sanity took over.
I did take the young fellow aside. Having seen his face fall while I was emotionally grousing over his mistake, I wanted him to know that he was worth more than the hat ever would be, and I apologized for my error. I wanted him to know that sitting on my hat was a mistake, but the hat was “just a thing” (my favorite phrase) and I valued him more than any old twisted and formed straw fedora. We make mistakes, we learn from mistakes, we grow from mistakes, but we are not our mistakes.
I also realized it’s similar to driving defensively. I should have expected someone might sit in my chair, so I should have placed the hat and glasses out of harm’s way. Lesson learned.
What’s It Worth?
Another lesson learned: By our reactions we sometimes give children the message that they are not worth a glass of spilled milk, a misplaced sock, a broken window or a crushed hat. Very quickly they pick up the message about their worth compared to what’s important to their parents and other adults. If we act as if the world came to an end when milk is spilled, what do we do for an encore if something serious were to occur?
Kids make mistakes-that’s a simple fact. After guiding two young people to age 22, I can rightly attest this to be true. It happens. Kids goof up. It’s normal. But that doesn’t remove them from the list of the most valued resources on the planet!
A misplaced sock, broken window, spilled milk or crushed hat is not the end of the world. What is important is that the child knows that he or she is valued unconditionally.
This was a lesson in perspective and understanding. I have a usable but damaged hat (yep, I’m still wearing it) that enjoys a deeper history, and, in spite of the mistake, that young fellow knows I value him-more than just a hat.
We need always to keep in mind that mistakes of young people may inconvenience us, distract us and disappoint us, but their mistakes should not diminish their value in our lives.
Our response to their mistakes needs to be in tune with what’s needed to help them understand and grow. Our young people need to know, through our words and deeds, that they are worth all the time and energy it takes to work with them and encourage them. They should know through our unconditional love that they are worth more than an old, well-worn, well-traveled hat. UN