This page copyright 1998 The Shrubbery
Angry Dan's Column
by Daniel Strohl
I know the date should indicate some kind of patriotic theme to this passage, but I'm not gonna write anything like that this month. As for all the columns I promised people I'd write, well, I'll get to them. But this month, I'm gonna digress for a moment.
For three weeks in June, I was a counselor at OWjL camp, a camp for gifted and talented students from Central Ohio, sponsored by Ohio Wesleyan University, and the Junior League of Columbus. As a former camper ('92 &'93) and a first-year counselor, I can't tell you how beneficial this camp was and is for these students. They come from backgrounds where they are alienated because of their intelligence to a camp where it's alright to be who they are; where acceptance is a philosophy more than a goal.
But this column isn't necessarily about my experiences as a counselor. It isn't an advertisement for OWjL or other camps similar to it. Rather, it's an attempt to persuade you to think about not just your kids, but all kids, and to make an effort to be a part of their lives.
Over those three weeks as a counselor, I saw one too many youngsters who were either hyperactive, underactive, quirky, or had some other indication that there was just nobody paying attention to them at home or at school. One camper had two clearly different personalities - one was very outgoing, social, friendly, sometimes almost too friendly, and the other introverted, but deep-thinking and strong-willed. This camper, as I observed over the week, had developed the first personality because for some reason the second personality had experienced a lack of support over his 12 years (it might have something to do with the fact he lives with just one parent, something I object to, but I'll get to that in the future). This was also a kid who enjoyed being picked on. How messed up is that?
At one point, I even saw the lack of attention being played through. One camper had a lot of undefined and unclarified problems, and late one night would only speak with one certain counselor. Once that counselor arrived, the other three who had been there with the girl might as well have thrown their hands into the air and said "Screw it," judging by their attitudes when they left. That isn't the way to do it.
There's not a lot of difference between these gifted and talented kids and your average Joe Schmo kid. I believe that if I could take those three weeks, boil them down and look at it, I'd be looking at just the essence of life oozing out of the whole thing. And that's not the dirty-needles-and-sex-in-the-back-seat kind of life we normally see. No, it's life run through a strainer where that other aspect of life is left far behind. These kids just might've shown that life a little better, that's all.
But they don't show it on their own. The key to it is the attention and the understanding we give them. As crazy as it seems, the more I facilitated picking on the one kid (he loved to be in the center of a circle and get pushed around by the other guys), the more he would open up to me and in group situations. And once the certain counselor arrived and talked with that girl, she opened up and many of her undefined problems then became solvable.
It's not impossible to deal with kids and teens. They're people like the rest of us who need as much time, attention and patience as we do.
Has Dan made you angry?
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