I recently helped out my friend, Sue, with a summer boot camp she ran for the incoming juniors of the high school where she’s the college guidance counselor. The three-day workshop focused on college application essay writing.
Sue and I have known each other for more years than I care to admit to in public, but we’ve seldom had opportunities to work together. And so this was a fun treat. It also gave me the chance to observe her in her “element” and to see her in action.
Here it is the summer and she’s heading up a program for forty teens that are drenched in Valley sweat and an early onslaught of nerves over the college application process. And through it all Sue is calm, focused, humorous, and gracious.
This was the second year for the camp and as she did last year, Sue provided lunch for her team. And as with last year, everyone appreciated her taking care of them. Perhaps I’m too jaded but I fully expected to be fed. Hey, the pay is modest and a worker is worth his or her keep!
What I realized, though, is that the staff is not accustomed to being treated with this kind of appreciation. They’re just used to brown bagging it, no matter the school function. For Sue, though, it was a question of hospitality, of caring for those who ultimately are helping her with her job.
I’m reminded of a fable told by the great Indian teacher Anthony DeMello, s.j.: “One day, a scorpion stood on the side of a stream and asked a frog to carry it to the other side. ‘How do I know you won’t sting me?’ the frog asked. ‘Because if I sting you, I’ll drown,’ the scorpion said.
“The frog thought about it and realized that the scorpion was right. So he put the scorpion on his back and started ferrying him. But midway across the stream, the scorpion plunged its stinger into the frog’s back. As they both began to drown, the frog gasped, ‘Why?’
“The scorpion replied, ‘Because it is my nature.’”
And so it is with Sue. She can’t do anything other than what she does. As she said to me, “How could I have them help these kids and not feed them? There’d be no camp without them!” Sue literally could not not feed us.
Yes, I am biased because Sue is my friend (how lovely to write that) BUT, she’s also a professional who is on top of things and trusts that the people she’s gathered will do what they’re supposed to do and she reminds them – “You’re doing a great job.”
Sometimes, life can be that simple.
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