Thursday, July 28, 2005

Summer camp memories, Part I

Well, my son is at summer camp this week. It’s the same camp I went to when I was a kid. The camp has a new feature where I can email him, but he can’t email me back. So I’m sending off little missives, knowing he’ll appreciate hearing from me but is having way too much fun to write me that often.

I loved camp. This particular one incorporates the teachings of Christian Science into everything they do, and I can honestly say it was the place where I learned how to apply the ideas at a very early age.

For example, in grade school, I was one of the outcast kids. At our school there were enough of us to form our own little group, but we were still picked on mercilessly by some of the meaner kids. The nice kids just left us alone.

Then I went to camp. The place blew my socks off. The love that pervaded everything was like water on parched ground to me. I worshipped my counselor, a sweet college student, very 60s with long hair and beads, very pure and upbeat. I still remember her cheerful face. And I learned that Love is everywhere. That nothing can stop me from loving, and by loving, I can overcome anything.

One girl in my cabin fell in the “mean” category. I remember pegging her instantly as soon as I arrived, she had that way about her. But these counselors just loved her. And when I showed signs of not liking her, they told me I had to love her, too. That God is Love, and we really have no other choice in the matter. To obey and to express God, I had to love. I didn’t become fast friends with that girl, but I do have some old black & whites of us having fun with our cabin.

This lesson armed me for returning home to school that fall with a new tactic. I was going to love all those mean kids. Nothing they did could force me to feel about them in any other way than how I knew God wanted me to feel. No one had the power to turn me into anything other than God’s expression. I could love no matter what.

Granted, this was a secret love. I didn’t go around telling anyone what I was doing, nor do I recall any overt action of being nice to mean kids or winning them over. The important thing for me was that I no longer felt like a victim. When people are mean to you and you feel nothing but love inside, you win. Once I felt stronger, I began to look around me and realized others could use my help. Other picked-on kids got my quiet support, and some I even defended publically. I got to be better friends with some of the nice kids, too, because my attitude was less pinched and frightened and more fun and appreciative.

So camp changed me. Did me worlds of good. And I know this year, my son will come back not only with new friends, but also with deeper spiritual insight. He’s usually got a pretty cool exterior, but each year he comes home bubbling over with stories of how he triumphed over challenges and put his spirituality into practice. I can’t wait to hear about it this year!

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

More about camp tomorrow.


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