Mark the Curious Courtesy Clerk – déjà vu?

4 03 2015

Selling Girl Scout cookies with one of my daughters on Saturday at a Safeway in Shoreline – a courtesy clerk with a disability asked me my first, middle, and last name and introduced himself as “Mark”. He had dark hair, glasses and was a bit shorter than me. I actually didn’t worry about this because he reminds me of someone I once met – and I wonder if actually he was the same guy. 

 Once upon a time when I was a sophomore in college (well the summer between freshman and sophomore years) I worked at a special needs day camp in Blaine for a month. For four weeks I was a camp counselor with he counselors and had a different group of campers to work with each week. I remember less than 24 hours of training and then we were to help persons with various disabilities and special needs have a great time at a week of day camp. We were given care over groups of 4-6 people ages 8-80 and my campers definitely spanned those ages. Each week I was “randomly” assigned the toughest camper to care for and it became sort of a joke between the directors and myself – it was a truly  physically and emotionally challenging month. At the end, this “Little Red” camp counselor was given an award for the most patience and compassion.

A glimpse of my charges:  I remember a tween who needed a wheelchair and walker and had a developmental delay – but not an affection for boys delay, her hormones were kicking in right on time. She only listened to the male counselors and literally hated me because I was a girl – I had both the wheel chair and walker thrown at me through the week. I remember an elderly woman whose legs were no longer functioning and several times we were so understaffed that I had to help her use the restroom – lifting her to the toilet and she was a mean old lady yelling every cuss word I the book at me. I knew though she was a victim of elder abuse and I did my best to care for her regardless. Those were my my most challenging campers. Then there was a young man about 17 who was kinda cute (hey- I was 19!), he had a mild developmental delay and his hip was a little off kilter. He followed me everywhere and was comical and liked to shoot hoops.  I could tell he was loved by people at home. (We had mixed gender groups by the way). I remember a gentleman with Down syndrome who wore a cowboy hat and wanted to snuggle with all of us ladies – I’m pretty certain he left with a girlfriend (another camper).  And there was this guy Mark, who I remember as autistic and since the movie “Rainman” was popular then he was easily compared to the main character played by Dustin Hoffman. Mark would ask us our full name and birthdate at the start of the week – when he met you again at various points of the week you give him your name and he’d tell you your birthday plus the day of the week you were born. It was pretty amazing. And I’m pretty sure he is the Mark who introduced himself tone over the weekend. I half hoped and expected him to tell me he remembered my name and birthday. Alas, no such luck – but how amazing if he is the same guy and almost 20 years later he is working there and still able to be his same question asking self. Makes my heart warm to think it possible. 

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