When I first came to Fern Lodge, I had little experience in dealing with young children–especially boys. The first day with the boys was the most exhausted I’ve been. I kept running around in a frenzy and felt that I wasn’t cut out for the job.
Feeling humbled, I decided to talk to various staff and some of the older kids in the program on methods and activities that had worked in previous FLOCK programs. I wanted to be popular with the kids and leave them feeling that they had the best summer yet at Fern Lodge. One of the older kids was helpful because she already had a rapport with the boys and they love her. I felt we developed mutual respect over time and communicated better about future activities and coordinated when it came time to wrangle the boys. The kids felt comfortable to share and talk with me and valued my approval. I developed patience and a greater sense of love during my time with the kids.
My happiest memory is when some of the kids warmed up to the patients. It began with their mother tasking them with handing out Hershey’s kisses to Fern Lodge staff and patients. I took that chance to reach out to the Activities Director, Robin, and plan short 15-minute sessions where the kids would join the patients’ activities for that day. We began with introductions. We followed that with playing balloons the following day. The following week, we had the boys reading out loud to the patients from interactive books that produced sounds at the press of a button. It was amazing how quickly the patients and children got used to each other. I learned that the separation of different generations was only a facade that could be easily broken by gentle, consistent steps.