(Fifty Nifty Years in United States Series)
Perhaps the funniest person I have ever met. He has a joke for everything and some of it would sneak up on you hours after he would say it. He also would do anything to be at camp.
He mucked or cooked and led all in the name of being somewhere where he felt included. He was one of those kids at camp who I felt really needed to be there and that it made a major difference in his life.
I cannot imagine my camp memories without him and what an impact he had on the work that I do. I picked this year for Auggie because it was a year that I had very limited camp time. I was working at a newspaper and doing some work for the Boys and Girls Club of Hollywood to help raise money to get more kids to their camp.
I had just sold my old Ford truck to Auggie and we had a few moments here and there throughout the year. For some reason it made me keenly aware that every child needs an overnight camp experience and as we were getting older, camp was an important part of learning life skills.
Auggie was one of those teens in the 80s who became a part of my camp experience as he grew and became part of the staff team and a good friend. I started creating what would eventually become my personal mission statement that year. It involved helping develop young people on their physical, mental and spiritual level. In those days, I worked with a YMCA camp program called “Raggers” that was like a personal challenge merit badge.
The essence of the program is taking challenges to improve in areas of God, country, and devotion to one's best self.
|YMCA Rag - (Click Here For Link to Ragger Facebook Page)|
I recall a time where Auggie and I were presenting to a new group of leaders, the concept of the Rag program since they were most likely going to be participating that summer. In describing the counseling sessions, Auggie described a beautiful and deeply felt session he had been a part of in receiving one of his Rags. It was inspiring and heartfelt and touching.
I stood and just listened to what was clearly a meaningful part of his experience. As he ended his talk and had inspired a tear or two with several of the participants. I said, “Wow, that was amazing, who was your counselor?”
What happened next was somewhat devastating. I immediately saw a look of what I can only describe as despair. It was like a cartoon when the character’s face suddenly drops from glee to a look of horror. I knew the answer as soon as I saw the look.
I do not know how to apologize enough. I think of that moment to this day and how I could not take back what had occurred or my misplaced memory. I knew that I could only move forward by being a better leader and a better camp director.
It re-shaped my commitment and I my resolve. I learned that I would always be learning and that I could learn great lessons from someone who was quite a bit younger than me. Several years later, Auggie became dog trainer and I discovered another great lesson from him and an author he turned me onto named Karen Pryor.
His lessons helped me reshape the way I have approached training for the last 20 years. I would call and just listen as he described how people could make so many mistakes and how he would help them re-orient their behaviors and subsequently their dogs.
I have become a life-long learner and I have Auggie to thank for helping me shift my behaviors. It has been an amazing journey for me and my family these past 50 plus years in these United States.
Thank you to Auggie for a valuable lesson allowing me to forget those moments when I have not been a better leader and to try to be better the next day.