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As I drove up to Maine, I knew exactly where I was going, but I did not know what to expect. I was to spend my eighth summer at Wyonegonic Camps, but for the first time as an Assistant Counselor (AC). I had first arrived there as a nervous nine-year-old camper; now I arrived as an even more nervous seventeen-year-old staff member. Each summer spent at Wyo gave me new perspectives into the meaningful role a counselor plays to the camper. Little did I know that a camper could affect a counselor in the same way.
I was assigned to the duplex of Cabins 3 and 4. Full of energy, love, and flashing white smiles, all twelve of these eleven-year-old girls made me laugh, rode on my back, and warmly embraced me time and again. One girl in particular, however, gave me a new sense of responsibility. Clara, the smallest of the bunch, hardly spoke during the first week. She always smiled and laughed with the group, however, and before long I somehow always found her holding my hand or catapulting into me for a hug. You could say that Clara was the cutest, with her big brown eyes, flowing hair, and intoxicating giggle, but each girl had her own qualities, which made it impossible to pick a favorite.
The most meaningful night of the summer took place on our overnight trip. Across the lake from camp, two tired counselors, twelve rowdy campers, and I sat around the campfire, stuffed with s’mores, slathered with bug spray, each itching to tell our stories. Finding no more room on the log, Clara found her way to my lap, where my arms gladly hooked themselves around her small body. The subject of parents and family arose, and the girls scrambled to tell their tales of fun times, embarrassing moments, and strange relatives. Clara’s face slowly pressed itself into my shoulder. I heard a sniff, soft and quiet underneath the noise of the fire and the chatty group. My arms tightened around her and began to rub her back, to smooth her long hair. I felt Clara’s tears on my cheek and her hot breath in my ear as she told me a deep and painful secret and begged that I would not tell a soul. At that moment I discovered what it felt like to have someone trust in me so greatly. Now I knew what it felt like on the other side of that special relationship.
I had arrived at camp after a year of unsuccessfully searching for myself. The twelve girls of Cabins 3 and 4 restored my confidence in myself and were my biggest fans when I needed it the most. After saying goodnight to each of them on their last night in camp, I stepped outside, closed the door to their duplex, and burst into tears. All of them, collectively had had a tremendous impact on my life, but it was Clara who affirmed my role not only as an assistant counselor, but also as a person worthy of trust.
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