Five-year-old Ben came to Camp I-Thonka-Chi (Camp John Marc’s camp for burn survivors). He had suffered burns on over ninety percent of his body in a house fire. Ben sustained other injuries during the fire, including the loss of all of his fingers.
CJM staff quickly noted Ben’s extremely quiet, private demeanor. Even his eye contact with others was minimal. Despite this, Ben bravely chose to sign up for swim lessons as his project. Ben was determined to learn to swim. His energetic swim buddy worked very well with Ben. By the end of the week Ben had mastered floating on his back and a modified freestyle stroke. Although friendly with his swim buddy, he remained very quiet and rather shy with others.
Traditionally, on the last day of swim lessons, every swim buddy is given a $1.00 bag of coins. The coins are scattered on the bottom of the pool and the camper keeps what he retrieves. This is not an easy feat even WITH fingers, but almost impossible WITHOUT them. Undaunted, Ben dove to pick up his first coin. Using both of his hands to scoop, he came up with a coin. This surprised even him. As Ben laughed loudly, he put the coin in his buddy’s hand and dove down in the water. Again, using both hands to scoop, he succeeded. As he came up again, he laughed, and this time he made eye contact with his swim buddy, who joined in his joy. Time after time Ben went down and came up with a coin, and each time his laughter was louder and his body language exuded increasing confidence. By the time he collected all of his coins, Ben was so happy and the connection with his buddy was so contagious that the rest of the people in the pool cheered and celebrated with them.
In diving for coins, Ben found his confidence. This new-found confidence not only allowed Ben to complete a formidable task, but it allowed him to laugh freely and joyfully, to form a strong friendship with his swim buddy, and to face life in a more confident spirit.