GRAND Magazine - Summer 2021 - 36

legacy
What sparks your core values?
N
BY JERRY WITKOVSKY
othing like aging to spawn reveries on the meaning of life. Don't get
me wrong, I am so grateful to be here, spending time with family and
contributing to the world, at 93. It's just that I thought by now I'd have
it all figured out.
You know more than you give yourself credit for.
Digging through a lifetime of old papers as I closed out and sold my condo
last month, I came across a poem I had written in 1968 when I was director of
a summer residential camp. I've only written three poems in my entire life, so I
took notice. What was so important to the young man who wrote this?
I was heartened to see it related to what I so fervently still value: caring.
How do we empathize and care for those around us? The inspiration for
the poem was this: I was working with a group of 11-year-old boys. They were
picking on one of their cabin mates who had wet his bed. While already awful
enough for the kid in question, the other kids were pretending to put diapers
on. The counselors were not doing a good job of resolving it, so I intervened.
I met with the camper first and asked him if I could have a conversation with
the whole cabin. He said yes, and we went together. Once inside the cabin, he
pulled his t-shirt over his head to hide his shame.
" Has anybody here wet their bed that they can remember? " I started. Four
boys raised their hands. The boy at the center pulled his t-shirt down. Then I
explained how being picked on for this hurt the boy and his feelings. " How can
we care about him? " I challenged them. The counselor, who was in the group
meeting as well, stepped up after I left. The teasing stopped. A couple of kids
made friends with the boy. And it was a better experience for everyone.
That's when I went back to my office and wrote this poem:
36 GRAND Summer 2021
Continued on next page
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GRAND Magazine - Summer 2021

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