The picture of us gold mining for fake jewelry and gems pops onto the white screen. I can feel the sides of my mouth grow and my cheeks now double in size. Then I look to her mother and see the happiness in her eyes as she sees that her child had fun that week. J is an eleven-year-old girl that I cared for over the course of a week at Easter Seals Greater Houston‘s Camp Smiles Overnight Camp at Camp for All. She is not an ordinary girl either she has cerebral palsy, which is a disability that affects the motor control of the body, but that nor her wheelchair let her define who she is.
As we gathered into the main hall to meet the parents of the campers, I see her parents stand up and wave their hands with excitement to see her. As I pointed to them she immediately saw her parents and thrusted her electric wheelchair towards them. I wrapped my arms around her mother’s and pat each other lightly on the back and I shake her father’s hand as firmly as possible. Immediately after that she looked up at her dad and said that she wanted to go to the car grab all her stuff and go home. Did I do something wrong? Did she not have fun with me? Her mom tells me that she hates saying goodbye and will avoid that interaction anyway she can. I chuckled with the relief that it was not my fault she wanted to leave. The slideshow plays and J was outside with her father not wanting to face the fact of saying goodbye. I sat next her mother and we saw the picture of us up on the screen I started to feel my throat close and my face turn red as the memories of the week flash through my head. Her mother gave a bigger hug than before and said “Thank you; you do not know how much this means to us and for J.” I replied, “No, you do not know how much this means to me. She completely changed my life.”
When I said those last five words I knew in that moment it was true. An eleven-year-old girl who has not even entered the fourth grade changed my entire viewpoint on life. She made me see that others come before me and also to not always be selfish in a way that hurts others. In life we always take for granted the people in wheelchairs or with disabilities. It makes us think we are better than them but in actuality we are equal to them. J made me see her not as kid in a wheelchair but as the most charismatic child on the planet.
Miriam Vicentea, Camp Smiles Counselor