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A couple of weeks ago I asked a Facebook Group of Camp Professionals for camp videos for my Video of the Week series. One person, Amelie Nicole, offered up a TedX video called Leading with Lollipops. This was not the type of video that I was looking for, but after I watched it I knew that I had to share it.

In the video Drew Dudley speaks about a moment he created where he unknowingly made a huge difference in a young woman’s life. He mentions that he doesn’t remember that moment at all, even after the young lady tells him about it.

This TedX talk hit me in the gut because I have had similar experiences. As camp professionals I am certain that we have changed and/or inspired many lives without knowing it. A comment here, an action there, a conversation with a camper or staff member…we will never know all the lives we have affected.

This is a must see video.

Here are two personal camp stories that I’d like to share with you. The first is about a camper whose life I affected and the second is about a camp director that affected my life.

Camper Scott

I was born and raised in Southern California and it wasn’t unusual for me and a few friends to just decide on a whim to go to Disneyland for the day.

camp-counselorMy first camp job was as a counselor for an outdoor education program. A year after that OE season had ended I went to Disneyland with a couple of friends. As we were walking up to the gate I heard a kid yell out. “Curt! Curt!” I looked around and this small 6th grade boy was running towards me with his dad in tow.

My friends were on either side of me and this kid jumped into my arms giving me the biggest hug. His dad immediately said, “So you’re the famous Curt I have heard so much about this past year. You made a real impact on Scott’s life”.

We talked about camp and other things for about 5 minutes and then off they went. One of my friends said, “Whoa, that was so cool.” The other agreed. I responded with, “Yeah, it was…but I don’t remember that kid at all.”

Scott’s life had obviously been changed. I was his counselor for only one week, but in that time I became a mentor for him. It was not unusual for me to take my group to a place on camp that we called “Storybook Rock” and have serious conversations with them about home, school, their family and friends, etc. I was an adult that the kids felt comfortable sharing their feelings with and taking advice from. That is the power of camp.

Even though I didn’t remember Scott, that moment at Disneyland had such a huge impact on me. It is why I do what I do and why, when the camp industry has such a high turn-over rate (even with leadership staff), I remain in this field. So, in the end, Scott changed my life as well.

Wally, the Camp Director

It was at this same camp that I had another life changing experience. I wasn’t what you would call a “hard worker”. In fact, I was a bit lazy. I skated by on wit and charm. People liked me, and that allowed me to get away with things, like not pulling my weight the way I should have around camp.

The director, Wally, was someone who I admired for a number of reasons. He wasn’t the most approachable man and I didn’t have a lot of contact with him since the program director was our direct supervisor, but there was something about him that I connected with.

cw-dininghallOne day, I was taking my cabin to an activity and I saw Wally picking up trash in front of the dining hall. He wasn’t picking up just one piece, he was going around camp and cleaning it up. We had a maintenance staff that, I thought, took care of these things. Then again, I was a counselor, one of the lowest people on the camp staff totem pole. Why didn’t he just insist that me and my kids pick up the trash? I have worked at a number of camps since then and have seen one or two directors do just that, insist that someone else pick up any trash that is within site instead of doing it themselves.

When we returned from the activity there he was again. This time he was hosing down the front of the dining hall. Even though we had staff that could do this, he was out there leading by example once again. His actions got me thinking about my own and how I would skate by doing as little work as possible. I admired this man and wanted to be like him in many ways. Looking back on it, I wanted him to be proud of me. I think, for that reason, something in my brain made a switch.

Since then, I pride myself in the work that I put in; pulling all nighters, working weekends, etc. I have also been intentional in my actions at camp and in the office, making sure that I am leading by example, that I am willing to do anything I ask of others, that I am creating “lollipop moments” for my campers and staff. I hold myself to a higher standard than even my employers do.

Here’s the kicker, I never told Wally what an inspiration he was to me. While we will never know all the lives we have touched, because most of those kids and young adults will never tell us about it, we can at least make sure that the people who have given us our “lollipop moments” know they have changed our lives. Think back on people who have affected your life and tell them about it. It could be a conversation or a quick email. Either way, it will make their day and you just might change their lives as a result.

What lollipop moments have you had? Share them in the comments/reply section below.