Lessons learned.

I worked at a camp the summers I turned 19 and 20. Time passes and memories blur. I forget names and faces, dates and places, but not the things I learned.

Banish your first thought of tanned legs (see prior post) peeking from crisp khaki shorts, a logo-ed golf shirt and a whistle. I was part of the maintenance team and I learned how the real world works while doing odd jobs as the only girl on a six-person crew. For four months each year, I cleaned, patched, crossed fingers and chased bears from a small camp in Algonquin Park.

There are shows now that put millionaire company owners in the trenches for perspective like I developed those summers. Put on a pair of work boots and take up what is considered the lowest job on the totem pole. It is the fastest way to see what people are really made of. Who sees someone for who they are first, what they do second. Who respects hard work. Who takes advantage of someone simply because they are in a position of power over them.

I can remember a passel of counsellors stopping to watch as I dug new holes for basketball nets. I was in the hole up to my hips and it was rooty, clay-based soil. One of the counsellors remarked that I had the best arms of any girl in camp, and it was from doing the worst job. I had to correct her; I was doing a great job: I always did a great job. And yes, it was keeping me fit. I learned plumbing and how much water a toilet pumps after being split in two from a prank gone wrong. I learned that climbing a roof to scoop peanut butter from a camp bell with a muffled clanger will earn you the respect of people who were too scared to do it themselves.

I was an oddity, sure. Working nights as I did for one summer, it was just me and my flashlight roaming the wooded trails for errant campers, off-line water pumps, and the odd raccoon. At 5’4″ I wasn’t equally matched for the 40 18-foot canoes I had to fibre-glass and rotate for campers to repeatedly drive into the docks. In hindsight I made some poor choices, most often in the summer romance department, yet I realize how those summers defined my perspective on work. If someone is paying me to do something, I give it my all. No job is not worth doing well, and I don’t pretend to be above anything. I also don’t play games with people. Power is not an excuse for poor behaviour. If it is, you probably aren’t working very hard in the first place.

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