The only reason I signed up in the first place was because I needed the community service. The truth of it was that I knew nothing about the disease; I was afraid of the blood. I often told my 11-year-old brother, who was diagnosed almost two years earlier, to “get those needles out of my sight, NOW!” But four days at eight hours a day made for a lot of hours. So I signed up to be a teen aide at a diabetes day camp.
The first day of camp was unlike the first day of anything else I had ever done. Usually, I keep quiet and try not to draw too much attention to myself. However, in this environment, surrounded by my brother and nine other 11-year-olds, I was kept too busy to be shy. Making crafts and recording blood sugar levels occupied my time. I came home that day exhausted and astoundingly happy.
The rest of the week was similar. Every day I grew closer and closer to the little girls in my unit. Every day I grew more and more tolerant of the blood. By the end of the week, I had been appointed the unofficial song leader for the camp’s flag ceremonies and had organized and choreographed a medley for my group of kids for the talent show.
On the last day of camp, we were sitting in an assembly on the history of diabetes. Two of the girls were lying in my lap, when one of them began to cry.
“I hate diabetes,” she whispered.
I knew I couldn’t cure her. I still knew very little about the disease and therefore didn’t know what to tell her. but I realized that my being there was making all the difference in the world.
That night I asked my brother to test my blood sugar level and to show me how he gives himself his shot. The blood no longer bothered me. Now I’m on the executive committee planning camp for next year. I’m actually serving as “artistic director.” I still don’t know much about diabetes. But I know what it means to these kids to feel loved. And you know what? I don’t care about the service hours anymore.