When I Reached My Heart

I remember one of the first times I felt truly touched by another person. I couldn’t really place it into words back when it happened, but I know I had felt something deep. It was these emotions of overwhelming love, a deeper sense of appreciation for something really close to my heart. It wasn’t a feeling I had experienced often, and perhaps that was why it was so powerful at the time.

In 2008 I worked at a Boy Scout summer camp as a camp counselor. For 8 weeks, I worked alongside other counselors to create a fun and memorable summer for Scouts, Leaders, and Parents alike. I remember one week I was assigned to work with a Troop. There was a young Scout in the troop named Evan. It was his first time attending camp, and it was also his first time being away from home for an extended period of time. Around Day 2 he had become really homesick.

I remember him crying outside the camp’s main office. I remember through his sniffles him telling me he was afraid of being away from home for so long. I remember he was worried about how his parents were doing. And I remember putting my arm around him and offering him a different perspective. I told him how perhaps his parents wouldn’t want him to worry about them. “Do you think your parents would want you to worry about them. Wouldn’t they have wanted you to come up here to have fun?”

I remember after that he wanted to be around me more often. But by around Day 4, he had started feeling more comfortable and enjoying what camp had to offer. I barely spoke to him the rest of the week. The week after he left I didn’t think much of him. In my mind I was simply helping him out and that it was also part of the job I undertook as a camp counselor.

A few weeks later I received a letter from him. He had handwritten it, thanking me for how I had helped him, and with it he enclosed a photo of us together. I smiled, feeling genuinely surprised and humbled that he had taken the time to write me. And I remember shortly after feeling it, I started to feel more emotional. Somewhere deeper this feeling of appreciation started to hit me. Like I said, I had experienced feelings of appreciation before. But this one was rare came from the heart. I still have his letter and the original envelope it came in. It’s stayed in a scrapbook and sits atop a shelf in my closet.

This was one of those moments, and I was 16 years old at the time. Now that I think about it, I feel like I have been on this path to my purpose longer than I’ve acknowledged. I remember people in my past even before that telling me: “You give good advice”. I remember helping one of my closest middle school friends through a rough mental situation and he told me: “You should be a psychologist.” And I remember so many times I joked/laughed off other’s sincere comments. I stayed humble, and I just said it was the right thing to do. I kept my worthiness to a minimum and to a fault as well.

Why do I share this now? Because I truly do see my worth, the things I have offered and can continue to offer. I use to be hesitant in showing how proud I was about my achievements. I associated “being proud” with selfishness, superiority, bragging, and insecurity with oneself. It can be, but not necessarily. I share this story tonight because I am genuinely proud of my accomplishments, the things I’ve done to change the world, and it’s not for validation.

And for the person reading this: if you have things you are genuinely proud about, don’t be afraid to shine a light on it. This things may be pointing you to a gift, a life purpose you have yet to discover. These moments can leave you clues…

Thank you for reading! 

Author: Donald "Nugget" Arteaga

Living to transcend labels, to share my insights, to inspire others to move past the generalizations and stereotypes of society. Was diagnosed with autism, but autism doesn't have me! <3

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