Over, Over, Over, Under

Palms facing you, arrange seven strings on two hands, leaving thumbs and one pinky free.

I did not travel abroad and rebuild Haiti this summer. I did not tutor underprivileged inner-city children. I did not journey to the Gulf of Mexico and offer my wisdom on how to best fix the oil spill, I did not serve as Youth Ambassador to China and expound on the benefits of capitalism. I did not write the application essays and compose the supplements that I had planned. However, this summer, I did painstakingly craft a myriad of friendship bracelets.

With the pinky, hook under every other string, until you have hooked three strings.

I spent my summer as a summer camp counselor, serving as teacher, confidante, best friend, and mentor to a few dozen elementary-school age children. I listened to secrets, I bandaged scrapes, I dried tears and resolved squabbles and came to care deeply for every single child I was responsible for. It struck me sometime in the middle of the summer how, despite the magnitude of their differences in taste, each boy and girl was perfectly content to sit at the paint-spattered tables with embroidery thread and scotch tape in hand, carefully weaving friendship bracelets. Most of them, when completed, wound up on the wrists or ankles of their friends and counselors, and the words, “Can you make me one, too?” rang throughout the day.

Hook over the final string, and pull through.

I myself mastered a few designs by the end of the first few days. I learned the seven-string woven stitch, the Chinese staircase, and the traditional diagonal stitch. There was no greater satisfaction to me than to teach a new pattern to an eager child, then to see them master it in turn and proudly show it to their friends. Over the course of the summer, with each newly completed bracelet, I learned the true meaning of a job well done. I became like the children I cared for, patiently unraveling stitches to correct a mistake, holding back frustration when I lost my place.

Change fingers in strings to again have a free pinky.

At first, I did not realize that I was learning something crucial. But by the end of summer, I discovered my innate urge to gather as much knowledge and wisdom as I could, and then to share it with others, to benefit others. I discovered that every bracelet I crafted was my way of leaving my mark behind where I had made a difference, where I had helped a few timid boys gain self-esteem, where I had helped one fiery girl learn to make friends, where I had helped one adopted girl realize the beauty of being Chinese in a predominantly Caucasian area.

Begin again.

President Theodore Roosevelt to the U.S. Military once said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” I may not have traveled to fabulous, exotic places, or made tremendous technological discoveries. However, I made a difference in the lives of America’s future, and I left my mark in the form of multicolored strings woven together, tied onto small wrists and ankles. I matured by gaining a younger mindset, by learning patience and the true meaning of a job well done. In my eyes, my summer was not wasted. It could not have been better spent.

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