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  • Writer's pictureNeal Hagberg

When No One Is Watching

It happened yesterday when one of our supervisors, unbeknownst to the entire staff, saw rain coming; and came out to the courts early to make sure the ball carts stored in our outdoor tower (which was currently leaking because of a caulking seal failure) were covered by tarps.  Nobody else thought to do it, including me.  But she slipped into, then out of, the tower, not knowing I was still at the bubble after all the campers and staff had gone to lunch.  She would never have let on had I not caught her in the act.

1st year instructor, Michael Conlin-Brandenburg teaching on court with campers.

It happened this morning on the court, when a first year instructor, who could have been taking a “lesson off” (mailing it in knowing a supervisor was not around to watch at the moment, but unaware I was standing on the tower observing from afar) gave every ounce of energy and expertise he had to every camper on his court, as have all the first years consistently all summer.

It happened when a rol dri crew made up mostly of supervisors and first years, after being inside all rainy afternoon, slipped outside to work like crazy for an hour so the campers could get out for the optional tournament.  They could have said, “Well, it’s not like we’re getting them

out for a bunch of lessons, why work our tails off to get them out for one hour, when we could save our energy for ice cream in the caf tonight?”  But they did not.  They went at it like life depended on it.

A group of demonstrating good sportsmanship at the net.

It happened when a boy who has suffered from severe bullying at his school and said he refused to open up to anyone ever again (and then said he has never told anyone that out loud), became best friends with

a group of boys who took him for who he is: bright, funny, kind, the kind of person you would love to

have as a friend, and those boys wouldn’t take no for an answer as far as him being part of them.  They laughed themselves silly on their way to dinner, at dinner, after dinner, on the court, in the dorms.  It was as if they had been best friends for life.  No one else in camp knew, including staff.

It happens over and over here.

I asked myself why today.

The best guess I have is that when we are surrounded by people who constantly believe in us, and tell it to us over and over, and show it in action over and over, and know that when we make a mistake we will be forgiven, not berated; that we can’t help but want to pass that on to someone else when we have experienced it.  That’s my best guess.

And the true test is not in performing when everyone is watching.  It is when no one is watching.  Except, that isn’t really true, is it?  One person is always watching.  You.  The one person you cannot get away from.  You get to keep your integrity, your dignity, your sense of mission, each time you choose wisely and compassionately.  You get to build what the world can look like.

“TLC is my Happy Place”

It can look like you at your best.  I have experienced it too many times over my 38 years here at TLC to think it is anything but reality.  Maybe not something that will change the world, but – as my spouse would say – moves the needle ever so slightly further towards the good.  We get to choose it, we get to create it, and we get to share it.  Even when no one is watching.

And, in our truest moments, especially when no one is watching.


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