So I’m not the only one!

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(The photo is from bing images as we can’t take photos of our special sailors)

My eleven year old grandson was a little anxious at the idea of accompanying me to my volunteer sailing. He loves kayaking and water in general but wasn’t sure how he’d be around disabled folks. (He was staying with me while his parents were away.)

“I don’t know how to act, I just feel so bad for them,” he explained.

“Don’t “act”, just be yourself, they are experts at that,” I explained. “Show them respect by treating them as you would anyone else.”

He was trying extra hard to be helpful as we helped ready the boats. A normally friendly guy, he seemed a little reticent around all us busy retired folks (it being a week day the younger volunteers  were working). Then the “special” sailors began to arrive. He’d been helping fish out the weed with a long branch (it’s been a problem this year) and one of the teenage sailors seemed to think this a great task and joined him.  They seemed to quietly enjoy each other’s company sharing the task, so our smart leader decided to try him on a kata-canoe together with several other sailors and a carer.

I was drafted to the safety boat from which I noticed a lot of noise coming from the canoe, my grandson’s voice yelling above the commotion. Concerned that he might be making a nuisance of himself (he can get a bit much sometimes lol!) we drew alongside and I asked the carer  if he was getting too rambunctious, but he replied, no he was doing great at getting the others to join in.

After the session ended he came bounding up.

“I’ve never had so much fun and I just made five new friends! I see what you mean Gran , I really like these guys!” he yelled at me.

That was it for the rest of the day. He went out twice more on the canoes not only pulling his wait paddling hard in the hot sun, but getting the kids/families to join in. He was so appreciated that a family, that came for the first time that day, tried to give him a tip! Lol! (We explained that he had had as much fun as their kids and no way did they need to tip him!) but I heard them talking to each other saying they’d never expected it to be so much fun and that they’d definitely be bringing the kids again.

Home exhausted, but happy, he asked eagerly “can I come again next week?”

“You were right about them Gran,” he added, “they were more fun than my regular friends. They don’t try to act cool, they are just themselves and it’s so much fun being with them.”

The bonding surprised me and I was real proud of him. He’d seen right past their varied disabilities to recognise their true value.

Joy and Freedom from an unexpected source.

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sail

(disclaimer- not the kids I was with)

I regularly volunteer with a charity taking mentally or physically handicapped kids/adults sailing. A very active and enthusiastic school group of about twenty kids arrived smiling and shaking hands with everyone.

One girl wearing a tiara introduced herself as “Queen Esmeralda” and asked if we could go on the green catamaran together. She was whisked off to “buddy sail” in one of the small sail boats, but since I’m only beginning to sail I however was detailed to the catamaran. My arms were already aching due to the gusty conditions I’d been paddling in all morning, but who could resist the smiles?

Our boat consisted of a carer, another sailing volunteer, and a bunch of enthusiastic (if not so effective) boys at the paddles. I’m so glad I went we had such fun! We fed bread to the ducks and swans (having to flee when a whole flotilla pursued us). We played pirates racing or trying to catch the other red catamaran. The boys faked sinking (waving arms and calling for help) to the paroling safety boat who then joined in the fun for a while sending waves our way to resounding squeals and laughter as the canoe tossed on the break. I looked at the kids and recalled the other groups I’d taken out and realised – these guys really know how to have fun. They were totally free just being themselves.

I watched the black preteen seated across from me “break dancing” his arms, his smile about to overtake his ears when a wave hit, I recalled the downs syndrome girl earlier that wouldn’t take off her hood for her carer to take a photo till I said she was so pretty we wanted a picture – then what wreaths of gleaming smiles she shone for the camera.

Attending my grandson’s school play that evening I couldn’t help but see how much freer and happier the kids on the lake had been. They weren’t in the least inhibited as were the “normal” school kids trying to be cool.

I realized how much I can learn from these folks, adults and kids both. I could never match those radiant smiles.  Credit must of course be given to their wonderful carers and parents, you can easily see they are loved and cared for.

The phrase, ” without guile” comes to mind regarding these kids, their joy is genuine and I’m honored to have shared in it.