Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer Camp: The Hamster With Cancer

I barely knew this girl, but she talked to me about some of her most personal feelings.

As the musical director of the musical theater summer camp, my job was to turn the kid’s lyrics into songs and then to teach them the songs for their performance. I spent two weeks working with them. At first for an hour, four times a week and then longer during for the week of the show.

I didn’t really have time to hang out with the kids and the time I worked with the kids was really directed and focused. This was a 4th grade-6th grade workshop and I did this as part of the summer camp work I talked about in this previous post.

I’ve had a lot of kids open up to me about things in their persona lives. Sometimes they do this because they feel that they know you, so they trust you. Other times they don’t feel like they have anyone else to turn to so they talk to you because you are available.

What happed with Mary, a 4th grader, was something different. While we worked on the songs, she worked hard but didn’t really stand out. Mary didn’t laugh at my jokes like the other students and didn’t really hang around me during breaks.

On the day before the performance during a break she came up to me and handed me a picture of a hamster. It was worn on the sides from being in her pocket. She began to tell me about her hamster.

Her hamster had breast cancer and was dying. Through tears she told me about this hamster’s life, the baby hamsters that were a result of this hamster being in the same cage as another hamster and the medicine they were giving to try to make this hamster with cancer more comfortable before the inevitable.

Even though this 4th grader was crying she was very articulate as she explained the fact that her hamster was going to die and the reality of the situation. I didn’t really have a lot to say to her besides asking some follow-up questions.

When it was announced that break time was over, she wiped off her face, sniffed her nose and skipped off to join the rest of the campers.

I’m not sure why Mary felt like sharing with me what was going on with her hamster. Maybe I seemed approachable or maybe it had to do with the fact that she knew that after this week she would probably never see again. I could theorize something about childhood social development, but that those would just be speculations.

More likely than not it was just one of those things that happens at summer camp.

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