At Mayerson Academy, we have regular conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as we strive to grow in these areas. And, this month we are highlighting the character strength of fairness. As I ponder our DEI work and this character strength, a past experience comes to mind …
I remember waking to the sound of my alarm and opening my eyes to see what time it was. It was 6:00 a.m. and time to get my daughter ready for summer camp. It was long awaited and the day was finally here. I was a little worried about the weather forecast because there was a 20% chance of rain. Why couldn’t the weatherman say that is was going to be sunny to partly cloudy with an 80% chance of sunshine. He focused on the rain and so did I.
By the time we arrived at the camp, the children were excited and ready to exit the bus; however, the chaperones had to give them one last pep talk about behavioral expectations. They wanted to make sure everyone understood that we were there to have fun and fellowship with one another and with the other campers. As one of the camp leaders, I was ready for the day … or at least I thought I was.
The children were divided into groups and sent to their prospective places. It was now the camp counselors’ responsibility to harness all that energy and zest. The activity coordinator had everything in place and ready to go. The children were allotted 45 minutes per activity, with 10 minutes in between to get to the next activity. An hour into the program, I realized the weatherman was way off on his prediction. It was sunny, about 8 degrees warmer than predicted, and there was not a dark cloud in the sky. Then, I noticed a little girl in a wheelchair who had been sitting in the same spot the whole time. Groups were rotating and it was time for the next group so she had to pass on the fishing pole that she had been using.
I walked over to the young girl and introduced myself to her. I asked her, “are you having fun?” She was hesitant but said that she was. I am certain she did not want to sound ungrateful. After asking several more questions; however, I really began to empathize with her. It was hot, sunny, and because she was wheelchair-bound, all she could do was sit and watch as the other children ran from place to place. I am sure she was convinced she’d have a great time and I wanted to make sure that she did just that.
I sought out the girl’s mother and introduced myself once again. I asked her if she would mind if I helped her daughter (I’ll call her Christina) navigate the activities? She, too, was hesitant but said yes. Both her mother and I talked to Christina and asked if she wanted to participate in some of the other activities? She said “YES!” with great enthusiasm and asked “what can I do?” There was fishing (which she had already done), paddle boating, hay rides, swimming and crafts. She wanted to try the paddle boats first. Her mother’s eyes were as big as saucers because Christina was paralyzed from the waist down and could not swim, (nor could her mother); yet, she reluctantly agreed. I talked with the counselor at the dock and asked if it would be possible for Christina to go in the boat. He said she could not ride in a canoe but that she could get on a paddle boat. Christina and I agreed that I would do all the paddling if she promised me to steer the boat. Little did I know I was going to paddle the boat for the next 45 minutes, non-stop. We were all over the lake. By the end of the day, Christina had participated in every activity. It was her first time for everything except the craft table, which she cut short to get to the next activity on time. We all had a great time, especially Christina, for it was only fair that she could participate as fully as possible. Fast forward a year and half later: I saw her mother in the grocery store and she told me Christina had signed up for swim lessons that coming summer at her local YMCA.
Seeing that everyone is treated fairly no matter what their circumstances happen to be is important to me. I would like to think that if either I or my daughter was in Christina’s shoes, (or wheels), that someone else would take it upon themselves to ensure that we had a fair shake at participating fully in life’s opportunities.
What does fairness mean to you? And do you have your own story to tell?