In a world where youth are constantly bombarded with preconceived standards of what beauty looks like, what makes you cool and how you should dress, it’s important, now more than ever, that the next generation’s individuality is encouraged.
Everyone was created to look different than the next person. Not just physically but in a variety of ways. My thoughts and opinions about a certain situation may differ from yours or they could be the same. However, from head to toe and especially in our mindsets, no two people are alike. Similar, yes. Alike, no. And that is what we should be telling our youth.
Since 2016, I have had the honor of serving as a director of a week-long summer camp, located on the outskirts of a small town in NC. The camp runs for three weeks. Approximately 64 different campers attend each session. Activities vary some from weekly but they encompass a wide range of skills.
The camp sits on 25 acres of land which provides us with an enormous amount of space to play and explore. It borders a lake and also has a playground, swimming pool, basketball court, volleyball court, an open field, a chapel and air-conditioned cabins. Important detail there.
My motto for my staff is that campers are priority number one so everything we do should be centered around them. Through activities, we’re able to expose them to opportunities they may have never had before. It’s at this point that the empowerment piece become essential.
One of the most important components we have as a cohesive unit is to provide positive energy to our campers through words of encouragement, affection and discipline. We challenge our campers to be open minded as we present them with options that may be new to them. This could in the form of a STEM activity, a field trip, a particular food or a board game.
The place where we see some of our best successes is in our push to accept the life differences amongst our campers. Our campers come from various home circumstances. We have children from two parent homes, single parent homes and homes where the parents work so much that they’re rarely home. We have children whom have experienced abuse, some who have learning and physical disablilities and almost all of them have something they don’t like about theirselves.
All of these situations tend to be revealed at camp by the campers and we work diligently to stress to them that they can excel beyond their current circumstances. We teach them to not let these limits set limitations for them but to use it as a driving force to overcome.
Within all of that, I believe our greatest teaching moments come when we encounter situations between campers who look different, physically, than another camper. The differences, of course, are many from hair, to skin color, to skin tone, to height, to weight, to foot size to eye color. We stress to each child who enters through our lodge doors that we are all unique and beautiful the way we are. And we tell this to them, constantly.
In this technological world where so many things are altered, it’s vital to stress to them that they were divinely crafted to look a certain way. Yes, we do acknowledge that there are always things we can improve upon. However, we need them to know that they should never feel ashamed of how they look or feel simply because others may think it’s weird.
The differences are what make this world such a beautiful place. If we can teach our youth, during their formative years, that this principle is one they should always strive to live by then we can potentially find ourselves living in that better world we dream of.
Kassaundra Shanette Lockhart is a freelance writer.