Gone Fishin’

For those of you who attended the banquet, this story will sound familiar…but this is the way Camp Director Tony told it. He has given me his blessing to share.

Tony was starting as the new Camp Freedom (aka after school program) director, and had big shoes to fill from his predecessor. He wanted to do something to stand out. He liked the idea of taking kids fishing. So after finding out there was no money in the budget for equipment, he went to Walmart and spent $400 of his own to buy 10 rods, reels and tackle.

The first time he took the kids out they were skeptical. Most had never been fishing before and thought, after standing around for awhile, that it was boring. That is, until the first kid got a bite…then they were hooked (pun intended!). And so fishing out at the pier became a staple at Camp Freedom. Tyann caught the most. John learned what quiet felt like. There was time for conversation. It was all good.

On the last day of program they went fishing one more time, and kids were reluctant to reel in when Tony said it was time to go home. Especially Tyann…she was so angry she left her line in the water and stomped to the bus. So Tony went to reel in, and realized she had cast a good way out. He thought to himself, “I am going to take my time and fish.” A moment later he felt a tug on the line and the rod bent forward. As he reeled in the kids began to notice and yelled, “Tony got a fish! Tony got a fish!” It felt heavy but it wasn’t fighting, and as it lifted up out of the water, shock fanned out with the realization that he had caught a handgun. “Tony got a gun!”

It bothered Tyann a lot that a gun was on her line. John felt shaken up and nervous, figuring there had to be something wrong. Tony waxed philosophical when telling this tale: “It’s a metaphor for their lives, right? I mean, something as innocent and peaceful as fishing, and violence still affects them.” To me this is another example of vicarious trauma. How living in a city stricken with poverty and violence means you can never get away from it, even when you intentionally mean to, kind of like nuclear radiation.

Fortunately resilience has trumped this adverse childhood experience, and the kids fished all summer at camp. Tyann even won an award! Now that’s quite a fishing tale.

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