A camp story
"Girls, you've got to pack up your stuff now before devotions," I said as I selected the devotions playlist on my iPod. "You won't want to worry about cleaning up in the morning when it's time to go."
Their bunks were a mess; piles of damp towels, dirty socks, inside-out clothes from disco night and crumpled emails from home. Our nine-year-olds were exhausted not only from the campfire we had just finished but from the past six day of constant activity and fun. Tomorrow we all had to go home. Even the counselors. It was week 9 and no one wanted to leave.
I was in the midst of unpinning cabin pictures, postcards, bucket drop notes, and colored drawings from the wall around my bed when I realized I was crying. I felt like one of the Pathfinder girls standing in the Torchbearer line that can't imagine life after camp. "I don't want to leave yet," I said out loud to myself.
Maddie heard me. She stopped stuffing things into her duffle bag and came over to wrap her arms around my waist. "I don't want to leave either Sarah," she looked up at me, "and I'm really hungry."
Laughing, I hugged her back. "Me too. Forget packing. Let's all go get an apple." I turned off my iPod and ushered the girls out of the cabin back into the night. Mindy, Gwyn, and I each held the hands of our little girls and led them down the gravel road--a short walk from the Longhouse to the Main Lodge. Our flip-flops crunched the gravel in the silence. Everyone else in all of camp was already sitting in their final devotion but we crept into the dark dining hall.
I flipped on the overhead lights and we all attacked the fruit bowl. We took our pick from the leftover apples and oranges. The girls giggled, feeling silly about getting fruit in the middle of the night. We swarmed the cabinet of cereal boxes. Counselors can bring their favorite types for the summer instead of eating camp's kid-friendly cereals. Now there was only a layer of crumbs in the bottom of each box. A feast for the hungry girls, they tucked the boxes under their arms as they figured out how to keep holding their fruit and latch on to their counselor's hand again.
Packing was too sad so we sat on the floor with the snacks we had scavenged and had a picnic devotion. Mindy lit the candles we'd been using all summer. Now they were just a layer of wax on the bottom of the jar with a short wick and dead mosquitoes that flew too close to the flame caught in the wax. Gwyn brought over the box of devotion beads- red, yellow, purple, green, blue and cream all organized in their own box.
Our eight little girls sat on the floor in a circle like we'd been doing all week- Jarmaine, Dominique, D'Mya, Angel, Laneisha, Kara, Maddie, and Carly. First we each told our high of the entire week. Maddie's was singing Alligator at closing campfire and replacing the word Alligator with Patricia. Dominique loved dressing up with my boxes of theme night clothes and asked me again if she could keep the dresses. D'Mya said playing in the shallow end of the pool and making a whirlpool was the best part.
We told the girls the Sagamore Creed again, "I will be worthy of trust... All this because God is most important to me, the other person is second only to him, and I am third." These ideals are what we want to be about. Our hope is that we will all grow in friendship, joy, faith, responsibility, trust and initiative. One at a time we picked one of the pieces of the creed that we want to work on next year. "I think I want to pick faith," said Carly. "I really like chapel and I want to pray when I go home and go to church more." Gwyn passed her one of the yellow beads from the box that she could tie on a shoelace or necklace as a reminder of her goal until she came back to camp next summer.
I love all parts of devotions but the last piece is one of my favorites. We started with Laneisha and everyone else in the circle said why they love her and things they've noticed are special about her during the week. "You're funny," the girls told her, "You always like to try new things. You were really nice to me right away on the first day. You're good at helping me clean up my stuff in the morning when I'm really slow." These girls are only nine-years-old but are capable of being incredibly kind and supportive to one another. I've been hearing groups of girls speak kind words like this all summer long but it never grows old. I take a deep breath to soak in this last night of devotions. I don't want to forget it.
We pray holding hands boyfriend-girlfriend style. Mindy starts and we squeeze our neighbor's hand to pass on the prayer. The girls each pray out loud and I'm thankful for the simplicity and sincerity of their prayers. They don't worry about being "good prayers" yet.
Maddie speaks last, "Dear God, please bless everyone holding hands in this circle."