Why Can’t Adults Be As Kind As These Kids?

Practice sheets that campers created for
their fellow camper to learn English
On the first Thursday of camp, I saw a few of the students display such compassion and benevolence that my heart metaphorically melted. To set the scene: one of the female campers who is visiting the U.S. for the summer is a native Arabic speaker but does not know a word of English, and over the past week she has made friends with a number of other girls, despite that sizeable language barrier.
Today during “choice” period, when the campers can choose to do art, dance, or percussion, I noticed that a group of 8 to9-year-olds girls was not participating in any of the offered activities. When I walked over to see what was going on I discovered that two of the girls were attempting to teach English to the non-English speaker. Writing their own practice sheets with the alphabet, numbers, and days of the week on looseleaf, the girls were teaching their friend the alphabet using sentences like “A is for apple,” and “J is for jet.” Only a one-dimensional cartoon villain would not have been moved by such an image. Really, it would be impossible to overstate the sweetness of this whole activity.


To put this in perspective you have to acknowledge that less than a week ago none of these campers knew one another. Upon arriving at camp they befriended one another despite significant personal differences, including the ability to articulate ideas to one another through a common language. So, to remedy the problem the English-speaking campers decided that it would be best to teach English to the non-English-speaking camper so that they could better communicate. Thus, they used one of their precious free periods to undertake this activity. The benevolence and compassion contained in this is deeply touching, isn’t it?

In addition to this example of the kindness of these kids, this vignette also speaks to the essence of Al Bustan Camp, which is intercultural exchange among the youth. The diversity at the camp allows for an immersion in diversity that, hopefully, conditions the campers to embrace their differences. The image of English speakers and Arabic speakers teaching one another their respective languages during free time is certainly a perfect example of this. But I should also note that I have seen countless other instances of this ideal exchange during the camp so far.

Sometimes this takes the form of linguistic education, but other times it will be an Arab student telling their friend the meaning of an Arabic word, or, in a less culturally-oriented exchange, a boy bringing in Pokemon cards to give his friends (these cards are worth their weight in gold to the youngest group). In the midst of the consistently bleak national and international news, it does give me some hope to see these kids treating one another with such benevolence. I’ll try to keep posting about this linguistic exchange as it develops.


Max Dugan
Kenyon College, ’14

Summer Intern

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