The “Natural” Lesson
There is always one thing that the fifth graders at Tom Matsumoto Elementary School wait for, and just for the record, it wasn’t Halloween.
It was a five day trip to Walden West, an integrated nature camp. Just as September is around the corner, we would all have our fingers crossed beneath over desks, eagerly waiting for the circular that would tell us when the camp was scheduled for. And there would be lot of pleading and screaming at homes to convince our parents to let us go. But one week later, we would all have content expressions on our face, with our fingers clutching our permissions slips.
Walden West was a sprawling camp situated at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and it was just absolutely beautiful. My ten year old self thought that I couldn’t describe the place because I didn’t have the vocabulary to do so, but now I realized that I could not express it in words because the beauty of Walden West couldn’t be equated with letters.
So we unloaded our luggage, ran into our cabins, claiming the beds for ourselves, but everyone’s smiles dropped. There were already other people in the cabin- People who were not from our school. There was complete silence while the rest of my classmates gave the strangers cold stares. I tried hard to choke back my laughter as I plopped down on my bed. I mean, seriously, what was this- we were behaving as if we were opposing teams on the day of the FIFA world cup finals.
Soon after lunch, we were to be divided into groups and allotted to various camp instructors. When I heard that I was in Scooby’s group, I was excited that is, until I found out that most of the other kids in my group were from the “rival” school. I was pretty upset that I wasn’t paired up with my friends, but finally managed to gather myself.
I would be lying if I said that I did not enjoy that first day. Honestly, it was just like spending time with my own classmates. That was when Scooby told us of the big “TASK” throughout the week, we would have to participate in three activities that would test our team spirit. If we successfully finish all three tasks, there would be allowed to go on a night trek. A gasp ran through everyone in our group. A night trek is the most dangerous thing that a ten year old can do right? Everyone donned determined expressions, and I knew that we would do whatever we needed to do in order to go on that night trek.
Two days later, we successfully finished two activities, and we had just one more left to go on that night trek. “So far, you guys have done really well in your tasks, but the last one is the hardest, and this time, you are on a time limit, “Scooby explained. Our eyes widened in anxiety. He continued, “This is what you are supposed to do arrange yourself in increasing order of your importance.”
“WHAT?” I screamed in my head. How are we supposed to arrange ourselves according to importance? I racked my brain to see if there was some sort of a mathematical formula that would give the numerical value of the importance of a person. Around me, everyone was running, not knowing what to do. Suddenly it hit me- I was surprised what I hadn’t thought of it before. “STOP!” I shouted. Everyone froze and turned to me. “Don’t you get it? We are all equal- no one is superior or inferior,” I explained.
“So what are we supposed to do now?” a confused boy asked.
“We stand in a horizontal line.” I clarified. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a girl smile. The girl was not from my school, and would always try to stand in the background quietly. Scooby grinned, and gave me a sign of approval.
That night after dinner, everyone in our group was geared up with hiking bags. We watched the sunset after we scaled a steep hill, but as we were coming back sown, it was pitch dark, and we couldn’t see anything. There were many scream, and an occasional “Stop stepping on my toes!” and what not. I slipped and tripped on the floor, but no one could see what has happened to me. Some fingers gently fumbled around and helped me on to my feet. I realized that it was the quiet girl.
“Thanks for helping,” I told her gratefully as I brushed the dirt off my jeans. “How come you are not scared of the dark like everyone else?” I asked her, trying to brew up a conversation.
“My entire world has been dark ever since I was six months old. I’m blind”, she explained. I held her hand tightly, not because I was scared, and not out of pity, but to show that I was proud of her, and that I admired her courage. To this day, I still stay in contact with her.
Thus, at Walden West, I learnt things far more important than finding out the differences between red and blueberries I learnt life lessons- lessons that I will never forget in my entire life.