Three People I’ll Never Forget

It was the summer of 2010. I can’t decide if that feels like a long time ago, or just yesterday. Anyway, I was making my debut as a camp counselor.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had never been to camp as a kid. It was a whole new world to me, yet I was the adult. I was the one who was supposed to be comfortable and lead the way. It took me a while to learn how to do that.

The first day of camp is the most hectic thing you can experience. There are a million things going on. Never mind the fact that you have 15 new faces in front of you and have to memorize all of them, basically immediately.

Then you have to remember their names and link it to their face, to their parent, to the information about them on a sheet of paper. All that needs to be done within about five minutes.

Then you have to make conversation with people who weren’t even born when you started high school. And then the day starts and the chaos extrapolates.

To say I was nervous would be an understatement.

I, along with two other counselors, oversaw a group of kids aged 4-5.

There was this one girl in my group – I won’t share her name – who came up to me as we were lining up to go to our first activity. She asked if she could walk with me. Of course I said yes.

All of a sudden, she put her tiny little hand in my hand.

At first, I felt uncomfortable. I had just come off a week of training where I was taught about “good touch, bad touch” and heard horror stories of how campers stretched the truth and got counselors fired.

I was standing there thinking, we haven’t gone to our first activity yet and this little girl is holding my hand. Is this weird? What’s the protocol?

I let go of her hand because I needed to write something down. As soon as I was done and my hand was down at my side, she reached for it again.

At that point I thought, this girl just wants to feel safe. That’s my job. That’s why I’m here.

To be honest, I was more nervous than she was. She was the most confident 5-year-old I’ve ever seen. And as crazy as it is to say, I don’t think I would’ve gotten through that first day if it weren’t for her.

Every time we went to a new activity, she came to hold my hand, and we walked together.

The next day, she was moved to a different group because her mom had requested that she be with her friend.

Every day for the next month that she was at camp, she’d walk in, come straight to give me a big hug, and then go to her group. Throughout the day, she’d come over during snack time or lunch, just to say hi.

I didn’t know how I would be as a camp counselor. One of my friends at the time texted me before camp started and said, “I can’t picture you working with kids at camp, at all.” That was a shot to my confidence.

But that little girl turned it all around and made me feel like I was meant to be there, and that I could make a positive impact.

I’ll never forget her.

*  *  *

I went for my first driving lesson on the same day that my post “I Miss School, Already” was featured by WordPress on what was then called, Freshly Pressed. Freshly Pressed is now called Discover.

Yeah, if you’re doing the math in your head, I didn’t go for my license until after I finished university. I’ve never really mentioned that on my blog. A part of me will always be embarrassed.

Oh no, Paul, don’t be embarrassed. Some people don’t go for their license until way later in life.

I know. That doesn’t make me feel any less embarrassed, though.

Anyway, as if driving around with an instructor for the first time isn’t hard enough, I couldn’t stop shaking. And that was all because my blog post had just been featured and a bunch of likes and comments were coming in.

It was the most attention my blog had ever received and I didn’t know how to handle it. Up until that point, if I got more than 10 views in a day, I was doing cartwheels. And now I was getting hundreds and hundreds of views.

My arms were no longer in my control. They were their own creatures that day. I couldn’t calm down.

My driving instructor and I formed a quick bond. He was twice my age but it never felt that way. Over the next few years, I’d call him and ask for some lessons before going for road tests.

We’d drive around for two hours just talking about anything and everything. The radio was rarely on, but if it was, it was always country music. He loved country music.

I never felt like a student. I mean, he would direct me and point out the things I was doing wrong, or could improve on, but we were friends.

I think of myself as someone who can get along with absolutely anyone. If we have a lot in common, it’ll be easy. If we don’t have a lot in common, for some reason it’ll probably be even easier. I don’t know why, but that’s how it works with me.

We would always talk about politics. I don’t think I’ve ever talked to politics with anyone else, other than a few comments. He told me “you know who” would be President long before anyone else ever suspected it.

After politics, he’d tell stories about his life. I’d tell stories. We’d laugh. We’d talk about TV shows. We’d talk about life.

He told me that life is like a movie. There is a start and there is an end. He said that we can’t skip ahead, or we won’t know how we got there. And we can’t go back because the movie will keep moving without us. We just have to be in the present and the rest will reveal itself in time.

That was a cool conversation.

When I finally got my full license and we said goodbye to each other for the final, it was definitely bittersweet, though we didn’t admit it.

I gave him a gift card to Tim Hortons (as any good Canadian would) and his face lit up. I thanked him for everything, shook his hand, and went on my way.

I’ll never forget him.

*  *  *

I lived in residence in all four of my years in university. If you don’t think that sounds like fun, then I probably shouldn’t tell you that I was on the non-alcoholic floor for all four years. I had the time of my life.

I don’t drink. I don’t have anything against people who do. It’s just something I don’t do. 

Being in residence for four years let me get to know the cafeteria workers, and really appreciate everything they did for us. There was one in particular who stood out.

She was a cashier in the cafeteria. I can’t recall if we met during my second or third year. It doesn’t matter.

She always had a smile on her face. And as a student who had a lot on their plate (literally and figuratively), I appreciated her smile. Everyone who went in her line appreciated her smile.

In the cafeteria, they would have a display with two freshly made cookies in a pack. Oh my goodness, I can’t tell you how good they were. Needless to say, I got two cookies almost every day.

It got to the point where this cashier started calling me, “Paul, the Cookie Monster”. I’ve never been more satisfied with a nickname in my life. I would feel guilty if I didn’t have cookies on my tray because she’d say, “No cookies today?”.

I felt like I was breaking her heart.

By my 4th year, she was basically my mom away from mom. At one point, she told me I reminded her of her son, and that she thought of me as such.

One time, she tipped me off that the following day was going to be a snow day. She told me she had received an email from the administration, telling her to stay home.

Of course, the school doesn’t tell the students that it’s a snow day until the day of.

If I was having a bad day, she would see it on my face, and give me words of encouragement. I always went to her check-out line, even if other lines were shorter. It was never about paying for my food quickly, it was about sharing a dose of happiness and positivity.

Before Christmas, she gave me and my roommate ornaments with our names on them. I look back and wonder why I never got her anything. I should have. It’s my one regret. She had given me so much more than an ornament.

On my final day, she was my first goodbye in a long day of goodbyes. She held up her line just to give me a big hug.

She is one of the true heroes of that school. She took her small role and turned it into something greater. She touched my life and thousands of others.

I’ll never forget her.

* * *

We come across so many people over the course of our lives. People we sit next to in school. People we play sports with in the summer. Bloggers. Campers. Driving instructors. Cashiers.

Every friendship we have doesn’t last forever. Some do, the majority don’t. It’s just the way it is. And at one point, that really bothered me. I felt like I was being deserted at times, when really, life was just taking us in different directions.

Some friendships don’t exist beyond an Instagram notification and we have to be fine with that. Because in a small way, I think that shows that they still care, even if they don’t say it. We just know.

Going into this post, I wasn’t sure there was a common thread between the three people I wrote about. I realize there is.

They were all people who helped me feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations. People who built up my confidence and never failed to put a smile on my face. Beyond that, they taught me a lot about myself and left a lasting impression.

So if you’re reading this, and you ever find yourself in a situation where you can share your knowledge, or make someone feel comfortable, or boost someone’s confidence with a compliment, or cheer someone up by smiling, do it.

Do it. Be their light. It could mean the world to them.

And they’ll never forget you, either.

Who has made an unforgettable impact on your life? 

About Paul

I think of my blog as an all-you-can-read buffet. There's something for everyone and complimentary mints at the door as you leave.
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51 Responses to Three People I’ll Never Forget

  1. Aww, this is really sweet, Paul! That little girl sounds so cute and brings back memories of when I was at summer camp. When I got into teacher’s college we were DRILLED on appropriate contact with students. The school I did my placements in was pretty chill about it, while a friend’s school you couldn’t even give high-fives. Sometimes kids just need to know there is an adult out there who will offer the support that a hug or a hand-holding will give, ya know? I’m glad she gave you the confidence you needed that summer! I’m sure you did the same for her.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Paul says:

      Not even a high-five!? That’s a bit much, though I’m sure something caused that rule. Yeah, it was scary being thrown into it and realizing that kids are always looking to hold your hand or sit on you, and you just don’t want it to be misconstrued by anyone. That girl was wise beyond her years, the rest of the group, not so much haha

      Liked by 1 person

      • Haha yeah…we were always taught if someone wanted to hold your hand or sit on your lap just say “how many hands do I have? Its not fair to everyone else if you take one” lol but that was a school setting not summer camp.

        She sounds like an awesome person!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Paul says:

        LOL I could’ve used that line for when they all wanted piggy backs. Instead I went for, “You’re too big” hahah I was the best. Seriously though, 8 year olds trying to jump on my back…

        Like

      • Haha I get that every day! Or taking flying leaps off of stair cases into my arms

        Liked by 1 person

  2. micqu says:

    One person who impacted my life a lot is a man called François. I never stood face to face with him, but if it weren’t for him, I would have given up on writing a long long time ago. (I am still in that “woah… 10 views – lets make cartwheels phase”). He kept encouraging me again and again.
    Another one is a woman who made me understand that it is okay to have flaws and to show them. I am not known to be an emotional person in my daily life. (funny, considering how emotional I am all the time on my blog)
    My kids impact me daily. But that is not what you meant with this post., i know.

    I try to smile at people and I try to find kind and uplifting words for everyone… It’s part of who I am. 🙂

    Big hugs from my side of the screen.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. agp98 says:

    You have made me realise… Noone stays forever – But The impact we leave on others always make a place in their heart ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Don’t be embarrassed about the driving thing, I took my practical test almost 4 years ago just as my theory test was going to expire and failed because I was ‘too cautious.’ The theory test went out of date, and now I have to go through the entire process again. I am destined to be a bus wanker forever.
    Living in Spain and working as a teacher there was weird. Of course, the UK is super strict with child laws, but in Spain, where kissing someone on the cheek is a standard greeting, and working as an informal placement teacher on top of that, I was constantly worried about overstepping the mark because young kids (and even some teenagers) would come and give me a hug out of nowhere… or I’d be told about some kids who had bad backgrounds, so I’d feel weird about them hugging me but then also feel guilty because I kind of knew they must have needed a hug or some form of love if you know what I mean?
    I’ll never forget you, Blend. (I mean this as a cute thing, but reading it back it kind of sounds like you’re dying, sorry)

    Love the word extrapolate by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      I believe in you, Blend! You’ll get you’re license one day! Better to be too cautious than a raging maniac, I’d say.
      I know exactly what you mean. Something like a hug is such a mutual thing, that when it comes out of nowhere and with so many boundaries, it’s hard to know how to react.
      Haha I think we’re gonna be friends for a long time, Blend! Don’t die on me and I won’t die on you!
      Extrapolate is a fantastic word.
      Also, do you mind reading my blog post before this one when you get a chance? I was really happy with it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Jess says:

    Oh my god the littler girl in the first story 😭 this brought back memories teaching the kids after school haha

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Loewe Chan says:

    Great post, Paul, sometimes someone can do a really small thing and it just fits perfectly into a little spot in our hearts. It makes me think of a Ted Talk on lollipop moments and everyday leadership:

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Barb Knowles says:

    I started thinking about who I would choose by the time I got to the section with your driving instructor. I love this post. It’s a view into your heart and thought-provoking. I have to go now. I’m thinking. 💟

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Becky Turner says:

    My undergrad advisor was pretty awesome. He used to work for the Brewers in their media/communications department, and by the middle of freshman year, we were always talking baseball (like he’d call me out in the middle of class and mention something about baseball). We had to take a class that was an ILP (I actually don’t know what it stood for) but he taught one called “Baseball and American Culture.” You had to be a junior or senior to take it, but he let me take it as a sophomore. In total I took five classes with him, and they all kicked my butt. He required a lot of reading and his tests were long, but he really made me think about communications/media and all that stuff and made me a better writer. He was also a big help during grad school and figuring out my classes and stuff since he took over as advisor to the program.

    I definitely should thank him at some point for all of his help and guidance over the years. He had to deal with awkward freshman me all the way up to sassy senior me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      That sounds awesome! I would’ve loved a class like that. I often wondered why more teachers weren’t like that – where they made their class more enjoyable by having individual bonds with their students.

      In high school, a had an English teacher like that. In 4 years, I was in his class 4 times for English, Media Studies, and Horror Fiction. While other teachers were so picky about following a strict outline for essays, he just let me write. He was also the baseball coach so I’d throw in some baseball analogies in my writing and he loved it. We later became friends on Facebook and talked about baseball here and there, and he took me to a Blue Jays game as a way to celebrate my early blog success lol.

      Sorry for the long story, but you’re comment reminded me of him. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Becky Turner says:

        My advisor was always soooo behind on grading, and during my sophomore year, I had the baseball class with him in the fall and a media class with him in the spring. During the media class one day, he comes in and throws a paper at me and says “Here, I found this on my desk.” It was a paper I had written in the fall for the baseball class.

        That’s awesome you had a teacher like that. I had a similar teacher in high school. He taught business classes, and I took one with him every year just because I liked him so much. He was a big Yankees fan and knew I was a big Sox fan, so we’d always battle it out every season. His big thing was handshakes, so every class he’d stand outside the classroom and shake our hands as we went in. And when my parents would go in for parent/teacher conferences, they wouldn’t even talk about me; they’d talk about other stuff and my parents really liked him too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Paul says:

        Haha I can’t stress enough how jealous I am that you had a baseball class. I mean, most of my classes had a sports theme to them but only a few focussed on specific sports. I had one called Pro Hockey in Canada but it wasn’t as good as we thought it would be, mainly because the professor was a last minute replacement and he had never been a professor before.

        Ugh a Yankees fan. He probably referenced how many World Series they’ve won any time he couldn’t beat you in a debate.

        As a side note, I’ve noticed that when you post comments, there isn’t a link to your blog attached to your name (as in, it’s unclickable). If you wanted to fix that, you can click on your profile pic in the top right corner (when on a computer), click Account Settings and then fill out the section for your web address. Another thing you can do is go to “My Profile” and add a Profile Link to your blog, so if people click on your picture, there’s a link there to your blog. Basically all of this is just to allow other bloggers to get to your blog!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Becky Turner says:

        I think I had a total of seven books for that class, and there were times when I’d have to read like 150 pages between classes. But it started back in the late 1800s when organized baseball first started through the 1920s through the expansion in the 1950s up to about the 1970s. We had to write a book report for our final project and I read a book about Mickey Mantle. It was actually pretty good, even though it was about a Yankee. I could see the Pro Hockey class being a good class but that sucks it wasn’t as good as you thought it was.

        Yeah he did sometimes haha. It didn’t help that I had him for a class when the Yankees won in 2009.

        I’ve had this blog for like three years and you seem to think I have my life together haha. But I didn’t even notice that. I just went in to fix that.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. ~M says:

    Love what you’ve written here…. There are so many people who I’ll never forget, and just like you, I think I’ll always remember them because they’ve either helped me in some way, or taught me something. We can never have enough people like that in our lives. Great post, Paul!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Noor says:

    Reading this post draw a huge smile on my face .. thank you for sharing this Paul ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Sounds like that little girl and you both needed that kind of reassurance that says’s “It’s going to be alright.” Hey, wait a minute, where’s my Tim Hortons card? But seriously, Paul, this is the kind of post there just isn’t enough of in the world today. We often get so busy that we fail to stop and reflect on what others have done (which comes naturally to them I suppose) that had a positive effect on us. Maybe it was a small gesture at that moment like a smile or a pat on the back, but its impact meant the world to us. Really nice post. ‘O)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Paul says:

      I sent your gift card out months ago via Moose Mail! Has it not arrived yet? It Moost’ve gotten lost.
      Thanks for the comment, Paul! You’re right. That little girl and I needed each other that day. I think we live in a world where too often people are in their own world and think every stranger is annoying, or they take their friends for granted, so the small things aren’t fully recognized or appreciated. We need more small gestures; we all know how meaningful they are.

      Like

  12. Dutch Lion says:

    You’re the best Paul. I too was a camp counselor once upon a time (believe it or not). I bet you made a great camp counselor. I did it as a summer job during college for 2 years in the mid-90s. I worked with tweens (6th, 7th, and 8th graders). It was tough but really fun and memorable. I ended up becoming a high school guidance counselor for awhile. Now I work in a high school as a “scrub” in a part time role. Anyway, my point is you might consider school counseling as a career. I’m not sure what you’re currently doing for a career other than your wonderful writing. Counseling is a great way to positively affect young lives. You’d love it. You’d be great at it. And you could still write too. Great stories by the way.

    Like

  13. Very true. Oh… and I’m sending out a moose alert. Somewhere around Happy Valley-Goose Bay, there’s a moose with a Tim Horton’s card around his neck. Probably maxed it out by now! I say every Canadian moose should come fully equipped with a compass.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Ely says:

    Ok. I had read half of this post and then I didn’t finish! Now I did!! And wow. This DID nearly make me cry. So much happiness and sadness mixed together in a blender of emotions and now
    I’m feeling like a happy-sad milkshake and I know you’ve never had a milkshake or tacos or Frosted Flakes for that matter but just trust me on this-
    It’s a good thing! I thoroughly LOVEEDDDDD this post.
    That person for me, was my 2nd grade teacher. She brought out the writer within me with a simple creative project: make up a story about anything- and had us fold up colorful paper and staple it together like a little book and there were suddenly these pages to be filled with writing and drawings! And that’s when I wrote a story called The Lonely Rose. It had a strong message for a 7 year old… and I pulled her aside and I was so proud of my story I asked her if she thought I could ever have it published like a REAL BOOK. Her eyes lit up and her face was consumed by a smile when she said OH YES!!!! Yes! You can do anything! And you’re a wonderful writer Ms. Journalism! And so goes that I was known by my entire school and called out to as Ms. Journalism. And yes I went home and looked up children’s publishers because I though OK I’m just a kid trying to write a book- these people will help me! I didn’t realize lol this meant real adult writers who wrote children’s books…. and I was hung up every time I made a call. Hahaha. Ever since then I just never stopped writing.
    Thanks Paul! For taking me to that place. It was a happy one to dig up from all my rubble.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      That’s the most adorable story I’ve ever heard. Don’t let the others read it, your Fox image will take a hit haha. But seriously, it’s amazing what a teacher can do. Do you remember what the story was about? Do you still have a copy of it? Maybe now that you’re an adult you could be a children’s author!! My 2nd grade teacher put on my report card that I socialized too much. And in Grade 1, my teacher said I shouldn’t share my snacks with others. So from then on I became a bit quieter and never really brought snacks to school. How dare they say that about me!?
      Also, I like how you managed to bring up the milkshake, tacos, and frosted flakes thing LOL

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ely says:

        LMAO 😂 @ your last sentence. And thank you!!! And yes of course I remember the story in detail, I kept it up until I was a teenager- and I went into a hormonal teenage rage at some point and threw it out because I had NO IDEA what it would mean to me as an adult. It’s one of my greatest regrets. The story was about a single Rose who was born amidst a field of daisies. She looked and felt different and isolated- so she spent a lot of sad being sad and lonely, until one day a wise bird or an insect I can’t recall exactly but some other animal came to her and told the Rose how beautiful and unique she was and she made a friend. When she felt confident with herself, she began to socialize with the daisies and quickly became super popular and loved just being herself.

        The plot was short but man that MORAL lol. No idea how I came up with that so little but I was always beyond my years!
        Thanks for listening! Lol like do I ever shut up??

        Liked by 1 person

      • Paul says:

        What a MORAL! Nearly shed a tear over here. You were so wise, why didn’t they have you skip a grade!? I also had the biggest sense of deja vu while reading what that story was about! Had you mentioned it somewhere before because it felt like I knew it…

        Also, you’re my favourite blogger so you can write as much as you want for as long as you want haha

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ely says:

        Lol! Aw!! Stoppp it!!!! And I’ve written about it before in a post a long time ago! I wish I could re-write that post and re-publish it lol. Do you ever want to do that? Make an old one better because it’s one you really like but maybe didn’t have as many followers or readers as you do now?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Paul says:

        Maybe I went back and read it, hmmm. And yes, all the time! Basically my first two years of blogging I’d like to republish so my brilliance could be recognized lol. You should re-write yours! Or even do a post with links to old posts, though people don’t click links (I do, but PEOPLE don’t).

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ely says:

        You and I are NOT PEOPLE. Lol 😆 seriously. Just not.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Little Rants says:

    “Paul, the Cookie Monster” sounds PERFECT for you! Make it your Insta Handle.

    Liked by 1 person

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