There is a place for kids who don’t have all their limbs, where they are accepted and loved. It’s full of the biggest smiles, purest hearts and happiest spirits I have ever seen. After my most recent trip to volunteer there, I feel it would be remiss not to share everything they’ve taught me.
Camp No Limits (CNL) dedicates itself toward showing everyone that with the right outlook on life, there really are no limits to what we can accomplish. It’s all about the attitude that we bring when we face the obstacles life throws our way.
The kids at CNL have any number of differences that vary on a huge scale: from missing just a few fingers to both of their legs; from using prosthetics to spending all day in a wheelchair. But while what makes them unique is so important, it’s what they all share in common that inspires me endlessly.
Each and every one of them is unstoppable.
I cannot even begin to understand how it feels to lose an entire part of your body, and I won’t pretend to know the lengths that those kids have to go to everyday just to live their lives. It’s a hardship beyond imagination, but somehow, for one weekend, they can all come together at camp and can be so happy. Everything they do — the games, the jokes, the friendships — it all seems easy, which is incredible because none of it is easy at all.
It took me a while to figure out what it was about camp that made the weight of the world seem a little lighter on their shoulders, until I started to become part of it myself. Finding each other — finding a family — helps the children who come to this camp. Not just the kids, either, but their parents and their siblings, the staff and mentors and even volunteers like me felt the strength of the good energy we can create from banding together.
A little boy who walks on two prosthetic legs can laugh while he pushes his new friend around the camp in her wheelchair. The three-year-old girl who was born with one arm can hear everyone cheering for her as she gets up to sing a song at the camp talent show. At any given moment, you can find kids of all shapes and sizes running and giggling and playing like there’s no tomorrow, because they have free reign of the place.
I’ve heard it many times before, but hearing parents tell us that they’ve never seen their child so happy before, so comfortable and at home with other people, will never get old.
This is a very unique experience that I’m trying to share with you all, so I realize that relatability is low. But now that you know what kind of magic happens at Camp No Limits, let me bring some of that into our college bubble.
There’s more to be grateful for than most people think. Sometimes, gratitude just has to be a conscious choice.
Everyone knows college is hard. Midterms are overwhelming and finals are hell, sure, but we’re here because we’re smart and hardworking and capable, and that’s something to be thankful for. Exhibit A: I’m a dance major because dancing is what I love to do more than anything, and going to CNL reminds me to be grateful that I still have working legs.
What would the world be like if everyone surrounded themselves with a group of friends — real friends — instead of trying to carry all of life’s burdens by themselves?
But years ago, after a huge traumatic injury, a doctor was telling me that he wasn’t sure how much longer that would be the case. But I made it all the way here, and in spite of all the other bullshit that has been thrown at me, that simple fact is enough for me to be proud.
There’s a fine line between belittling your own struggles and putting them into perspective. That “someone always has it worse” mentality has birthed the so-called Oppression Olympics, where our generation strives to outdo each other’s hardships in a never-ending competition of complaining.
But this is not the time or place to talk about that. This is about lifting each other up.
Would those kids at CNL be as happy as they are without each other? Probably not. That’s why camp is so special, because they come together and find one another in a place where everyone fits in.
It’s simple and something that most of us have probably heard several times before as the moral of a cheesy feel-good movie, but it’s a hard concept to put into practice: If you find people you love who care about and accept you, then the people who don’t stop mattering so much.
What would the world be like if everyone surrounded themselves with a group of friends — real friends — instead of trying to carry all of life’s burdens by themselves? Once you’ve seen child amputees helping each other learn how to walk, the thought of reaching out to your own friends for help when you feel overwhelmed seems a lot more manageable.
People uplift people, but that’s easy to forget when blogs and pages and social media sites full of anonymous hate comments are at the tips of our fingers every day.
So, ignore that for a moment.
Take as much of life’s great fuckery in stride as possible, because the way we approach what seems insurmountable actually goes a long way. But when you can’t — and that time will come too — there’s always someone out there who can help share the load.
The worst limitations are the ones we set on ourselves, and I’ve seen what’s possible when those get taken away.
Trust me, it’s amazing.
Jordan Curiel thinks that if this positivity bomb brightens at least one person’s day, then she has done her job.
Jordan Curiel is an Opinion and Nexustentialism staff writer. She is a dance major, a proud Libra and the most uncoordinated human being who has ever graced this earth.