(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.