February 13, 2011
By , Brighton, MA
“Are you looking for something?” I turned around to see a young woman was looking at me curiously. She had been watering flowers on the porch of the house to my left.
“Umm… I’m looking for a kid,” I said with an apologetic smile.
“Oh…” She looked startled. “I hope you find him!”
I hoped so too. But there was Joshua running up the hill towards me. This was my third summer working as a shadow counselor for Joshua-a hyperactive child. My job was to ensure that he caused no problems for the camp regulations and other campers. I had started because I needed a summer activity. It wasn’t easy. Joshua left me frustrated, angered, and unappreciated. Yet I would not trade my job for any other.

Joshua tested my patience. Often. Every morning, I arrived at his house to walk with him to the day camp. Joshua loved to run away from me. Sometimes he hid in a stranger’s backyard. I would look up at the windows and hope no one was home. Other times, he ran into the street. At first I would yell shrilly and run after him. To my alarm, this would serve only to encourage Joshua to run faster. When Joshua finally let me catch him after a quarter of an hour, I tried to squelch my indignation at him for causing me to make a spectacle out of myself. I thought: “He’s just a kid. He has grownups telling him what to do from morning till night, so I can’t blame him if he wants a little fun. He’s not doing it maliciously.” (Although that I often doubted.) Then his mother suggested that stop running after him. I stayed in one place and waited for him to find me once he saw that I wasn’t chasing him. I would stand on the hot pavement, squinting, waiting, waiting, until I finally would breathe a sigh of relief as I saw him running my way. “JoSHUA,” I would say taking his hand. “You’re NOT ALLLOWED to run away from me! Don’t DO that again!!!” “…Please.”

Joshua put me in embarrassing situations. He had no qualms about kicking or hitting me. One morning Joshua told me “I don’t want to go to camp.” We were already halfway there. So I told him that of course he wanted to go, that camp was so much fun. This had no effect. Joshua got upset and began to fling pebbles at me in frustration. They hurt, and I blushed as two passersby stared and frowned. He stopped throwing pebbles only when I promised to buy him a transformer toy. During every swim-time Joshua tried to grab the hose used to fill the kiddy-pools. If he got the hose, he would drench me from head to toe. For the rest of the day I had walk around wet, my co-counselors giving me pitying looks. One day Joshua surprised me. He asked my permission.
“Pleeeeease can I spray you?”
“But the boys like it,” he pleaded with me in shrilly escalating tones, “They’ll laugh! Pleeeeease can I spray you just one TIME...?”
“Well….not now….”
I thought quickly. He wanted peer approval. I was suddenly willing to get wet in order to make him happy. Should I let him spray me? Just then, Shua grabbed the hose…Ah well…

When Shua expressed appreciation, my job was suddenly worth it. “I’m not Shua,” Joshua wheezed in a forced accent. He took off his baseball cap and replaced it, upside down. He took a few steps leaning on an imaginary cane.
“I do not know who Shua eez. Aye am an old man”
.Umm- OK, “Mr. Old Man. ….Should I take you to Camp Shemesh instead of Shua?”
“Yes. Take me to camp”
Better to play along....
“Surprise!” yells Joshua as he straightens up and fixes his hat.
“I’m Shua! Did I fool you?”
“WOW!! It was you ALL ALONG???”
My smile is genuine. Nothing beats the light in Joshua’s eyes when he thinks he has fooled me.

The difficulty of getting along with Joshua made the relationship rewarding. Every time Joshua agreed to hold my hand I felt a personal pride as well as a strong surge of affection. When I first began working with Joshua, I would count the hours of each day eagerly waiting for the camp day to be over. “He’s a demon,” I would think, “in child form.” Now, I kind of miss him. Even…care about him, because I tried hard to make him happy. I am reminded of what Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler wrote in Michtav MiEliyahu, “That which a person gives to another is never lost…. He can see a part of himself in the fellow-man to whom he has give. This is the attachment between one man and his fellow to which we give the name ‘love.’”

Join the Discussion

This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

kateross said...
Mar. 9, 2011 at 1:44 am
So powerful! You are a very skilled writer!
sharon1234 said...
Feb. 20, 2011 at 8:16 am
This is a really good essay!
Site Feedback