We pulled the plastic picnic table to the side of the room to make room for the devotion circle. Smelling like Herbal Essences shampoo, the girls came to the floor in their pajamas and sat Indian style before we turned off the overhead lights.
After we shared our highs and lows I told the girls the story of the ten lepers from Luke chapter 17:11-19. These ten men had come to Jesus for healing. He told them to go show themselves to the priests and as they went they were healed. Only one came back to give thanks and praise to Christ for cleansing him. Jesus told him that it was his faith that had healed him.
It's easy to take things for granted. Being healed from leprosy might be an extreme but it's normal to not always think about being thankful. We want to be thankful for all of the good things in our life--blessings and gifts that go unnoticed if we're not looking for them.
I put out a pile of paper and spilled a box of markers in the center of the circle. Everyone crawls forward to grab one of each. "Write 100 Things I Love at the top of your paper," I tell them, "It's ok if you go over or under 100- just keep writing." I play Jake Ousley, David Crowder, and JJ Heller quietly as we write and the candles flicker yellow light on our tan faces. We bend over our list scrawling down things we are thankful for. You keep your paper tilted to the center of the room so you can see what you're writing and make sure the wet friendship bracelets on your wrists don't soak the paper. I write...
- the sound of twelve fans in a cabin at once
- making vanilla lattes in the red dining hall cups
- yellow apples in the fruit bowl
- the love tank wall
- reading from Cold Tangerines at night
- hip-hop clinic performances
- talking with a kid during Trading Post
- when the whole cabin gets really into four-square
- summer nights just cold enough for a sweatshirt
- when everyone in the shallow end does handstands
- HOHing (Hanging Out Horizontal)
- wacky Wednesday themes
- passing friends on the Lake Road
- all camp chapel on Wednesday morning
- waking up to "This Side" every morning
- the Prunie song
- dancing on chairs at theme night dinners
- talking in accents all day long
- the Day Camp tunnel before chapel
- blue staff shirts and skirts on check-in day
- mutual recognition with campers from last year
- show choir clinic
- listening to kids' funny stories
- watching my old campers be great Day Camp counselors
- late night talks on the porch
- tennis court sleep-outs
- side ponytail Saturday and sassy classy braids on Thursdays
- wooden nametags
- knotted friendship bracelets from Brave girls
- when the milk carton has a minglet
- singing Disney songs in the CAC during clinic time
- quarter-zip staff sweatshirts
- winning Empire in the Lake Village
- hugs and high-fives
- highs and lows of the day
- getting mail from campers that were campers earlier in the summer
Mary Claire and I were at the front of the pack, expert speed-walkers on the way to the lake for the Roger Murphy swim. We walked carefully in our flip-flops to avoid flipping the gray, muddy gravel up onto the back of our legs. We had watched Jessica's Daily Affirmations on YouTube at the beginning of devotions the night before. Jessica, a blonde curly haired little girl, stands in her pajamas on her bathroom counter and talks to herself in the mirror. She shouts, "I like my school. I like anything. I like my dad. I like my cousins. I like my aunts. I like my Allisons. I like my moms. I like my sisters. ... I like my hair. I like my haircuts. I like my pajamas. I like my stuff. I like my room. I like my whole house. My whole house is great."
Jessica's voice is now stuck in our heads and we want to be just as positive and life-affirming as her. Mary Claire and I go back and forth giving our own Jessica-isms as we walk. We emphasize each addition to our list with moves just like Jessica.
I like my side pony-tail.
I like wearing my backpack.
I like sleeping by Maggie.
I like living with Shannon.
I like the Roger Murphy.
I like Fridays at camp.
I like tie-dye v-neck t-shirts.
I like Maisy and Imogene the stick.
I like the girls in my adopt-a-cabin.
I like the party room at lunch.
I like our CILT cheer.
I like wearing overalls on country hoe down night.
I like talking in devotions.
I like this walk between villages.
I like bug juice.
I like Mary-Claire.
Mary Claire and I keep doing "I like" all the way to the Lake. We are so thankful for so many things. The sun is shining bright, we are about to get purple Roger Murphy swim bands, our best friends are all around us, and we still have more than a week left in this session of camp.
I grab our cabin's mail after 3rd clinic and throw it in my backpack on the way into the Lodge. I sort it all out at the end of lunch, passing it across the table to girls expecting e-mails from friends and letters from their parents. At the bottom of the stack there is a manila envelope addressed to me, Sarah DeLong, and Carolyn Kata, decorated with a rainbow of markers.
I rip open the flap and pull out a thick stack of notebook paper. "Oh. My. Gosh." I say in awe as I stare at the top page. Flipping through the sheets I realize the significance of all of these words, crammed into every corner and margin of these papers. She's done it. Ellie has completed a list of 1,000 things she loves in just the two short weeks since she left camp. All of the girls at the table want to hear from her list. We start the tradition of reading a page from Ellie's list at the end of every meal for the rest of the week...
- underwater tea parties
- modern plumbing
- making a spectacle
- camp friends
- HOBO DINNERS!!!
- taking opportunities
- the London Eye
- xc in middle school
- being a role model
- 11 minutes- beasting the pole climb
- funnel cakes
- Blessed Be Your Name
- vanilla candles
- idea of soul mates
- breaking stereotypes
- Sarah Wright's smile
- Andrew Scale's Ivy League voice
- looking like a madwoman
- Matt Fregeau's floral skills
- upside down braids
- Livvie's monkey call
- my "explosive" personality
- smell of rain on asphalt
- not caring what people think
- good books you can't stop reading
999. being so close to finishing a goal
1000. SARAH WRIGHT, SARAH DELONG, AND CAROLYN KATA! Because they convinced me to write 1,000! I love you guys!
I want to create a habit of being appreciative. I want to make finding joy in the small things a pattern. I want to be on the lookout for tiny blessings.
Let's be like the one leper that came back to give thanks after he was healed. Let's follow Jessica in starting each day off with a positive attitude. It's not normal to be this optimistic I think because it's hard work. Life isn't always easy, it doesn't always work out the way we want but maybe that's when it's most important to be thankful.
I want to be thankful for this gift of life- for the hundreds, no thousands, of small things that make our days so great.