Friday, August 11, 2006

Friday Five, Mango version

Tomorrow I leave for a week at camp. Those of you who've been reading for a while might remember that "my camp" - the one where I spent all my summers growing up, where I worked for eight summers, where I met some of dearest friends and got to know my husband - "my camp" was closed. Last summer, the diocesan council decided to sell the property. So our new Canon for Youth & Young Adults (who is super-swell and was ordained with me) has inherited the task of figuring out how to have camp without having a camp.

This week is one of the experiments: we're joining next-door-neighbor's diocese for a week of their camp session. I'll be a counselor for the counselors-in-training. I'm not quite sure how that'll work, but I think I'll enjoy it. I also think it will be hard and sad, being at camp without being at Camp.

Needless to say, this whole endeavor has been bringing back all kinds of memories. Which is where the Friday Five comes in. Work was kind of hectic today (and that was with the office officially closed) in that "I'm leaving town for a week" kind of way. So, I just skimmed the F5 post, and saw that comment at the end about Generosity being a banana.

Banana? Nope. Generosity is a mango. A seven year old taught me that, a long time ago.

One summer at camp - my last summer working there - I was what we call "administrative staff". I supervised some folks, and part of "supervising" meant helping cabin counselors with the kids who were kind of a handful. This particular boy had a problem with his hands. They kept balling up into little fists and landing hard on other kids. One evening before bed, early in the week, the assistant camp director & I were in the office, and the little boy needed a time out - and so his counselor needed a break. So, he came to sit in the office with the Ad Staff. This was not a reward. After a bit of quiet time, it was our job, the three of us, to come with a "behavior contract". Since it was snack time, the other staffer & I had been sharing a mango - she'd gotten it at the store on her break that afternoon. She offered him a piece, which he took cautiously. But - mangos are sweet, tangy and messy. What self-respecting seven year old doesn't like those things?

With markers and paper in hand, we made a list of two behaviors the little boy needed to work on: keeping his hands to himself and... well, I don't even remember the other one. Behavior contracts had three other parts. First, there were consequences - if he couldn't stop hitting people, the next thing would be to call his mom. Then, there was a reward. What reward would he like? He pointed at the plate with the mango peels. "Could I get more of that?" And so it was included. The reward for a good behavior day would be a shared mango at snack time. That made the third part of the contract easy: we needed a secret signal to help him remember what he was supposed to do. So for the next day, whenever he was starting to have trouble, we'd whisper "mango", and he'd remember to keep his hands to himself.

The next night, I'm happy to say, the three of us enjoyed a perfectly ripe mango in the office together. It was much more fun than the previous night, and we were so proud of him for getting through the day without any incidents.

Unfortunately, even with the promise of the mango reward, the next day he punched another kid, and then a counselor. It was only the third day of camp, but it was clear that he just wasn't ready for camp. His mom came and picked him up, and we said goodbye. The assistant director & I both cried after he left. He had tried very hard, but already in his young life, someone had taught him that violence was the solution to any problem that comes your way.

I don't know if he came back to camp, or where he is now. But I really do hope that the one day of success, and his sweet reward, stuck in his mind. And I know that sharing a mango taught me a great deal about "fruits of the Spirit" - patience, love, kindness, self-control. A little can go a long way - especially if you're willing to share your fruit.


revabi said...

Oh man, so sad, and yet so sweet. May be somewhere though you planted a sweet seed of God's love and self control in his life. Hope camp goes well.

peripateticpolarbear said...

What a sweet story. (And mangoes are my favorite fruit). My childhood camp was closed, too, and though I've played at many others, there is an ache there....I hope that camp is fun....