Expect the unexpected! For as long as I have heard this phrase I never internalized it: I always lived by daily ‘to-do-lists' and through an organized record of things that I needed to do to be a good student, to be a good citizen, and to find a good career path. Yet this summer, working as the 8 to 12 Year Old Program Director at Bethel Horizons, a Christian camp in south western Wisconsin, I learned the importance of the unexpected: no matter how much I planned an event or activity, the weather would shift, a behavioral problem would arise, or a staff member would need advice.
Yet it was not until the third week of my summer when I met Alex*, a typical ‘at risk' camper, who had been given the choice of going to camp or going to a juvenile detention facility, that I truly experienced the serendipity that the unexpected can bring, both in a situational and vocational setting.
“Kelsey, can I borrow your Bible?” This simple, yet truly amazing question came from twelve year old Alex, who, two days earlier, I had been forced to restrain and physically remove from a school bus full of eight to twelve year old children after he had physically assaulted two campers and a counselor.
Following that physical restraint and during the ensuing conversation I expected Alex to remain belligerent and unresponsive; surprisingly, Alex took an unexpected one hundred eighty degree turn. The once sullen camper became helpful and outgoing; he stopped hiding behind violence and began asking questions.
Similarly, I not only experienced the unexpected transformation of Alex, I also experienced a total upheaval of my once carefully drawn out career plans. Until that week I had been focused on one day practicing medicine, and had even found a specialty—pediatric cardiology—that seemed especially appealing. Yet I experienced the unexpected: I began to question my seemingly fundamental dream of becoming a physician. Through that questioning of ‘what is my worth as a physician?' and ‘how can I possibly serve ‘at risk' children while also practicing medicine?' I came to realize that by volunteering at medical clinics and by participating in Big Brother Big Sister programs, I could continue to assist in and witness unexpected reversals. Indeed, after much reflection and a myriad of similar unexpected situations, instead of changing my career path, I strengthened my resolve to become a pediatric cardiologist.
Today I still maintain my obsession with keeping and utilizing ‘to-do-lists,' but my organized list of things I need to do to be a good student, to be a good citizen, and to become a pediatric cardiologist is less structured. I am much more open to spontaneity and to learning from unexpected situations and opportunities that no scope of careful planning could ever envision.
*The names have been changed to protect the campers' identities.