In my memory, the words summer and camp are inseparable. Our local YMCA had an extensive program for teenies through teenagers, and I was hooked!
Little Kids Camp was held in a pine-filled grove right there in suburban SoCal (we went home each night). It was “pretend-you’re-in-the-mountains,” with hikes, knot-tying (I remember nothing), and campfires (I remember it all). We sang silly songs (“John Jingleheimer Schmidt,” “Do Your Ears Hang Low”) and did even sillier skits.
One skit involved a man (boy) being dunked in the water over and over again, and each time being asked, “Do you believe?” The last time he’s asked, “What do you believe?” and he replies, “I believe you’re trying to drown me!” I laughed, but I didn’t get it. Being from a thoroughly worldly family, I’d never even heard of baptism.
Then on to Big Kids Camp! Camp Osceola was in the Southern California mountains. We got to sleep in pine cabins every night! And to ride horses and swim and eat in a bona fide pine-paneled mess hall!
One leader tried (and failed) to teach us etiquette. He explained that it was impolite to prop our silverware up against our plates. “Why?” I asked. “Well, um, because ants will walk right up it onto your plate!” he said. And I thought, “My mom would never allow ants in our house!”
But there were deeper truths. One overnight hike went all the way to the top of Old Greyback (Mt. San Gorgonio), SoCal’s highest peak. The rule was: We hike as a group–everyone gets to the top!
Not a bad rule for the year 2020.
Truths were snuck in during campfires as well. After the requisite goofy songs, skits and announcements, a leader would tell a modern day parable. To me they were just stories. And yet they rumbled around in my head when I lay in my sleeping bag later. One particularly impacted me:
A struggling architect is hired by a rich man to build a lavish house, no expenses spared. Resentful of the man’s wealth, he uses the flimsiest of materials and cuts every possible corner, basically constructing a beautiful pile of junk. When he’s finished, the rich man praises his work, unhesitatingly pays him, and then says, “Because I appreciate your integrity, my friend, I’m giving you this house!”
As a result of the truths planted in my worldly little heart, I developed a hunger for something more, to wit, for the Source of the truths peppered amongst those hikes and silly camp songs.
I walked and prayed this morning in our local urban woods, and thought, as I often do of my summer camp days. And of how grateful I am for the truths imparted to me. But most of all I’m grateful that I finally learned to connect…
With the Source of those truths.