tales of a girl in the city

juillet 15, 2004

In Good Hands

Two weeks ago, David spent some time in Maryland at a camp that he volunteers at almost every summer. The campers in his cabin are boy's boys--they're funny and gross. This year, one of them was an aspiring rapper. Another was pumped up about being a college sophomore with a new girlfriend. All the guys love the female counselors and talk a lot about which ones they would like to date. They make dirty jokes; they tease one another incessantly.

And when the week at camp was over and I was sitting across from David, listening to him describe the best acts from the talent show, I just sat there, amazed. Because at David's camp, all of the campers are born with a muscularly degenerative disease. So, in addition to the horsing around and joke-telling, one of David's jobs as a counselor is to help the campers turn themselves in the middle of the night. In fact, many of the kids use motorized wheelchairs and ventilators. And most of them won't live much past their twenties.

David doesn't make his time at camp about the kids' sickness, nor does he paint himself as some sort of hero, so, I'll try to do the same. But nonetheless, I think what David does is extraordinary. I asked him how he can get so close to kids he knows might not be around next year, and he talks about it very simply. He loves to be their arms and legs for a week. That killed me when he said it, and killed me even more later, when I saw the video of him in the pool with them, lifting the kids in the water and zipping them around.

It amazes me. This capacity he has to offer himself without fear of rejection or loss, though simultaneously with enough to wisdom to acknowledge that hurt and loss are possible.

From the moment I met him, he has given me this same type of boldness.

Though I've been wanting to sit him and my dad down since I first found out how many interests they had in common, I was squelching any thoughts of a trip to my house for Thanksgiving, sure that David would run for his life. Until:

"I'm trying to figure out my vacation days," he called one day to tell me, "because I figure I'll want to spend Thanksgiving somewhere with you."

I laughed so hard, I couldn't talk for five minutes.

I'll never be able to tell him how much things like that mean to me--mostly because I'm usually laughing too hard, but also because I don't think I'm that good with words.

"Are you always like this?" I have asked him several times.

Having told him all about the posers and the crazies,
he knows enough to know my skepticism is warranted. But he just grabs me and laughs into my hair.

"You know weird people," he'll tell me. "I'm just normal."

Then he'll kiss me and tell me what I swear is the prettiest three-word poem I've ever heard:

"You're my girl," he'll say.

After that, my heart tells my brain to shut up.


This normal guy's favorite book is Steinbeck's East of Eden, and because I'm doing that thing that we all do when we fall for someone, I took it off my bookshelf the minute he told me it was his favorite and began reading it immediately.

On page 12 of my Penguin edition, there is a quote which I have already underlined. Though Steinbeck wrote it about the people of Salinas Valley in California, the minute I read it it elucidated something about David's character that I had not previously been able to describe:

I think that because they trusted themselves and respected themselves as individuals, because they knew beyond doubt that they were valuable...because of this they could give God their own courage and dignity and then receive it back.

In short, as I begin the crazy, joy-filled slide of falling in love, I am realizing the inestimable value of what it is that I have found:

A person who's brave enough to catch me.