Glenwood School for Boys and Girls is hosting its annual Cornerstone Luncheon on Thursday, Sept. 15. While I’ve opted out of this week’s event, Glenwood has a very special place in my heart and just thinking about it reminds me of some of the lessons I learned from the students.
In November 2005, I was on Glenwood’s South Campus (please click here to learn more) finalizing the script for the annual Thanksgiving Luncheon when my colleague Mark came in and took a seat. Among his many Glenwood roles, Mark was camp director and I asked if he found a job for me at camp the next summer, something like nature lady or song leader.
“We need a nurse. Can you do that?”
Remember Harrison Ford in the first Raider’s movie? “Snakes? Why did it have to be snakes?” I felt the same way about being a nurse.
We worked together for several years and – I thought – knew each other’s strengths. He was skilled at working with disadvantaged kids from throughout the Chicago area and I was good at writing about them. But camp nurse? I work with words and keyboards and reporters, not with kids and cuts and ticks. Oh my.
Okay. If you think I can do it.
“You’ll need to take a Red Cross First Responder class, probably in Wisconsin, and I’ll show you how to set up the infirmary and manage the kids meds before camp starts.”
I called my sister, a long-time school nurse, and told her I didn’t like the sight of blood.
“It’s red liquid. Get over it.”
A softy, that one.
That next summer was the first of three seasons for me as medic at Glenwood’s Camp Getschow (campgetschow.htm) near Loretto, Wisconsin. I decided I couldn’t call myself a nurse, unless it was Nurse Ratched.
As it turned out, I loved caring for these kids. Having been a full time aunt, never a mom, I felt happy to be needed and helpful. Ticks? No problem – where’s the salad oil? Scrapes, cuts, blisters? I taught these grade school campers how to scrub their wounds with warm water and soap on a gauze pad, telling them if they didn’t clean it well it might get infected and then we’d have to do it again with me doing the washing. They did a great job scrubbing out their scrapes then I’d dry them off, apply the appropriate antibacterial goop and a bandage. I was learning to be a caregiver, they were learning to take care of themselves – something some of them weren’t able to learn at home.
But my first big lesson came very unexpectedly one afternoon when a boy-type camper came in for a cold pack and I made a joke, a sarcastic remark. I don’t remember now what I said but I promise it wasn’t inappropriate, other than the fact that he didn’t understand me. In fact, that’s what he said.
“I, I don’t know what that means,” he said.
My bad. Kids don’t get sarcasm unless they weren’t raised with it as I was. We have some pretty sarcastic people in my family – some more so than others – and that sarcasm sometimes bordered on being caustic, offensive.
I once knew a big time sports writer from a Chicago paper who said sarcasm was just another form of speech. Yes, but it can hurt when it becomes caustic. He didn’t get it and guess what? We don’t talk anymore.
The young camper put me on the path to clearer communication. Say what you think but try to be fair about it. No sense throwing caution to the wind for the sake of a sarcastic joke.
I’m no angel and I can still be sarcastic with certain members of my family but I’m working on it. Now, punny, nothing wrong with that. But sarcastic? I think about the camper who said he didn’t understand.
There is confusion in life about so many things it’s no wonder brothers, politicans, countries war with each other. Geez, I’m short, getting gray and have holes in my socks. Please don’t let me be misunderstood too.
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