A Note of Gratitude…

I think it was quite possibly the hottest day so far this summer.  Camp was beautiful.  The cabin I was in overlooked a lake and was surrounded by trees.  There was so much humidity in the air you could see a soft, transparent blanket of mist covering everything.  The sun was going down and the reflection through the trees hitting the water and pier were beautiful.  Swimsuits were hanging as if they were trying to dry in the high humidity.  I could hear the girls coming towards the cabin, chattering or singing in small groups among themselves. It was my second night at camp and I was excited to see the faces I had spoken to the night before.

The night before I spoke to the girls about taking care of themselves mentally. I had started the presentation with an intention to show how quickly we can jump to a conclusion and judge others based on what we see. Hoping they’d take the bait, I was to launch into my healthy mind, healthy you segment. As they walked in, the giggles dissipated as I stood there with an expressionless, stoic face.  I wore a soft beige blouse, business skirt, and heals.  I put more make up on than usual, sporting some matte lipstick I had to dig around for at home. I certainly didn’t look like I belonged in camp. I said nothing until they were all sitting in front of me. I stood erect, properly poised as I said my hello and explained that I was Ms Holly, CEO from an elite organization that worked with young girls to obtain high self-esteem. My tone was different for me and it was hard not to break out into laughter.  I asked if they were ready to hear what I had to say and I think I heard a couple muddled yes’s.  As I spoke with a conceded tone, I stopped as if my thoughts were side tracked.  I told them I “forgot” to hand out the note paper and pens I brought for them.  I had wanted them to write down their opinion of me. I encouraged them to write as much as they wanted and it told them it was ok if it was negative or seemingly mean as I wouldn’t know who wrote what. I collected the little pieces of paper and proceeded to read them out loud. Some of them held nothing back! Kids are so honest.  It is part of why I love what I do. Some things the girls wrote down included-rich, well dressed, thinks highly of herself, had plastic surgery, pristine, pretty, poised, mean, emotionless, high end, old, lots of make-up.  As I read the little sheets of paper, I explained that my feet hurt and I needed to take off my shoes. I reached down and took each shoe off and plopped them on the floor in front of me.  They were very quiet and watched intently as I read a couple more comments.  I paused, looked up and at the girls and reached into my purse for some wipes where I proceeded to take off my make-up. They squirmed and looked at each other. I kept a straight face and read a couple more. Some comments weren’t so nice and it made some of the girls gasp at the raw honesty of others. I remained calm and told them it seemed to be very hot in the cabin. The pretty blouse and skirt I was wearing came off to reveal a much cooler and simple outfit. Now I looked like I belonged in camp! I looked up to see many of them sitting with their mouths and eyes wide open and with a look of disbelief. My tone changed. “I wasn’t what you thought I was?” How quickly we can judge others and assume. I proceeded to say, “My name is Holly and I am with the Breast Cancer Family Foundation.” The lesson went on to explain that we often will do this when we are social media, phones and our computers.  Anyone can present themselves in any kind of way. They can pretend to be something they are not, act like they have something they don’t, pretend to know something you don’t. It is hard to know what is real and what is not. We are plagued with what we think the world wants us to be rather than celebrating who we are and what gifts we have to bring to this life. We start comparing ourselves to others, trying to define our interpretation of what success looks like to the world rather than to ourselves. The path is different for everyone. Comparison steals joy. It can affect your self-esteem, which can lead to feeling anxious and depressed and engaging in unhealthy habits. We followed the conversation with an exercise that lifted each of us. We learned that we all have struggles. I stressed the idea of being more compassionate, kind and understanding towards others. It truly feels better on both ends. The plan should be for us to be a better person tomorrow than we were today, both mentally and physically. We finished the evening with hugs and a photo.  The photo of us was snapped after I asked them to proclaim, “I’m beautiful.” I asked three times before I got half the response I was hoping for. I left thinking, I need for that response to be much louder when I return tomorrow evening.

Overall, the first night went well and I was excited to return the second evening. I was going to bring in the previous night’s content into the second night while covering other aspects of wellness. They knew me now and I hoped to have gained some respect and trust from the girls.  I was dressed in my casual shorts this night. Thank goodness.  The evening was much like the previous, warm and humid. 

I waited inside by the door and high fived the girls as they entered the cabin.  Half way through the line, a brown-eyed girl secretly handed me a folded up note.  I felt like it was a secret.  I felt like I was in high school, getting slipped a note only intended for my eyes to read.  I smiled softly at her, said thank you and slipped the unevenly folded note into my short pocket.  The evening flowed and was filled with topics like sunscreen, sleep, nutrition, exercise and self-care. I learned from listening to the girls and felt like this age (8-12) was so impressionable. There were several big issues for the girls that came up again and again. Many talked about an alone feeling of being the only one (fill in the blank), bullying, family issues and electronic distractions. Nutrition and exercise was a common theme as well as taking care of our earth. It was an amazing couple of hours and a gift for me to spend that time with these girls who are a fraction of my age. The struggles, the awareness and the willingness to thrive at this age should never be underestimated. The girls were very honest about their life struggles and we discussed how we can improve our life every day. 

I needed another picture.  We posed and I asked them to say “I’m beautiful!” Ahhhh.  There is was. It actually hurt my ears.  I received more hugs this night than the last.  It felt amazing and I hated to see the night end.  It was raining when I left and I was happy I wasn’t wearing heals as I headed through camp and back to my car.  The girls left at the same time to head back to their cabins for the night.  As I was almost back to my vehicle. I heard a group yell, “We love you Ms. Holly.”  I smiled and waved to them as I got into my car and listened to the rain hit the window as I thought about the evening.  I then remembered the note the brown eyed girl slipped me.  I pulled it from my pocket and gently unfolded the note to find the little girl’s written words touching. Moments like this are priceless. They are fleeting and gone, but the impression and impact we have reinforces our “reason” in the work we do at the Breast Cancer Family Foundation. 

Dear Holly,

Thank you so much for coming.  You are now one of my top role models. You reminded me that I could do so much more for myself. I’m feeling better about me and having self-esteem. I think everyone should hear from you because I think it could change a lot. Have you ever heard of the book, Strong Is The New Pretty?  I think you would like it.

Thank you so much.   – Sophie

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