Friday, July 30, 2010

Summer Vacation?

by: Courtney Turner
When I was a child, my mother was very close to my two siblings and me. I mean, very close, to a fault, perhaps! No, I mean my mom has a beautiful soul and I love her dearly, but she felt very attached to us kids. She never wanted me to attend camp, because summer was her time to spend with us, I know, very sweet and endearing, but to me, I wished and prayed and begged, for summer camp.

Now I’m director of summer camp, after never attending one single day as a child. I am, in fact, living out my childhood dreams. I get to coordinate dream fieldtrips, things that children will never forget, no matter how old, jaded or ‘cool’ they grow up to be. I am so excited to go to camp, and my inner child comes out every time I step into Kennedy King College. “How I wish my mom put me in a cooking camp” I think to myself! What a wonderful opportunity it would have been for me to express my creativity and see that I could be good at something deemed, “so grown up.”

I see so many children in the Englewood neighborhood who have never attended summer camp either, but I was one of the lucky ones. My mom is a caring, nurturing woman, and I was well taken care of as a child. These children got a different role of the dice. I was grabbing something at Walgreens, just the other day, and I saw 2 children, both around age 8. I noticed them first, because I thought they looked young to be shopping by themselves. The second thing I noticed was that they were hungry, “ah, I wish I could buy this” one kid mentioned while pointing at a bag of chips, “I’m so hungry,” the other responded.

Pacing outside the Walgreens on the South Side of Chicago, I did not know what to do. I didn’t want to treat them like charity and embarrass them; I did not want to leave these children hungry. When they finally came out with a single bag of ice, I asked them, “Hey, did you guys eat lunch today?” as it was 2:00pm in the afternoon. One child responded, “No, it’s summer vacation.” I was confused, “I know it’s summer, but have you eaten?” the child yet again repeated, “No, it’s summer, we don’t get lunch in the summer, only in school.” My heart was crushed in one split second, like stepping on a glass and feeling the shock and the shatter through your whole body. Here I am, teaching kids how to cook healthy food everyday for 6 weeks, and these kids down the street have been going hungry every one of these days. I felt just sick to my stomach. I wanted to yell, to scream at someone and scoop these kids up in my arms and somehow, make this situation okay, but I can’t. I can’t save the world, the south side of Chicago, or perhaps even this family, but I was going to give them some food. I took them right over to Dunkin’ Donuts and bought for them bagels and cream cheese for their family.

I went back to camp with tears in my eyes that day. I looked out at the camp that I helped create with a much different perspective. What a haven we have created. What a wonderful experience for these lucky 200 children we have had the great opportunity to help this summer. Though Common Threads may not save the world, we will have enriched all these children’s lives and minds, and we have given them a safe and loving space for an amazing summer vacation, they & I will never forget.

1 comment:

  1. I have tears in my eyes too after reading this. Thanks for the work you are doing w/Common Threads. Just heard about the org this morning in the "Relish" magazine insert in our paper, of all places.