Saturday, April 23, 2011

Ch 17

A camp story

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...
  1. the sound of twelve fans in a cabin at once
  2. making vanilla lattes in the red dining hall cups
  3. yellow apples in the fruit bowl
  4. the love tank wall
  5. reading from Cold Tangerines at night
  6. hip-hop clinic performances
  7. talking with a kid during Trading Post
  8. when the whole cabin gets really into four-square
  9. summer nights just cold enough for a sweatshirt
  10. when everyone in the shallow end does handstands
  11. HOHing (Hanging Out Horizontal)
  12. wacky Wednesday themes
  13. passing friends on the Lake Road
  14. all camp chapel on Wednesday morning
  15. waking up to "This Side" every morning
  16. the Prunie song
  17. dancing on chairs at theme night dinners
  18. talking in accents all day long
  19. the Day Camp tunnel before chapel
  20. blue staff shirts and skirts on check-in day
  21. mutual recognition with campers from last year
  22. show choir clinic
  23. listening to kids' funny stories
  24. watching my old campers be great Day Camp counselors
  25. late night talks on the porch
  26. tennis court sleep-outs
  27. side ponytail Saturday and sassy classy braids on Thursdays
  28. wooden nametags
  29. knotted friendship bracelets from Brave girls
  30. when the milk carton has a minglet
  31. singing Disney songs in the CAC during clinic time
  32. quarter-zip staff sweatshirts
  33. winning Empire in the Lake Village
  34. hugs and high-fives
  35. highs and lows of the day
  36. getting mail from campers that were campers earlier in the summer
When I reached 100 I said, "Ok you can stop." Around the circle we shared favorite items from our lists. If you loved something another girl said you added it to the bottom of your list. "Girls what if you just kept writing this list? What if you got to 1,000 things you loved?" I challenged, "That would be so cool." We prayed a prayer for thanksgiving. Thanks for the things we had just written. Thanks for the great things we'd already experienced that week. Thanks for all that was yet to come. "Goodnight girls," I said after blowing out the candle. I walked around the cabin stopping at each bunk to give a hug or high-five. We fell asleep to the sound of twelve fans spinning in the dark.


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...
  1. underwater tea parties
  2. modern plumbing
  3. confidence
  4. making a spectacle
  5. camp friends
  6. counselors
  8. taking opportunities
  9. the London Eye
  10. xc in middle school
  11. being a role model
  12. 11 minutes- beasting the pole climb
  13. funnel cakes
  14. Blessed Be Your Name
  15. vanilla candles
  16. idea of soul mates
  17. breaking stereotypes
  18. Sarah Wright's smile
  19. Andrew Scale's Ivy League voice
  20. looking like a madwoman
  21. Matt Fregeau's floral skills
  22. upside down braids
  23. Livvie's monkey call
  24. my "explosive" personality
  25. smell of rain on asphalt
  26. not caring what people think
  27. good books you can't stop reading
and after lots of reading and page turning...

   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.


  1. maybs my favorite one so far. loves yah sar

  2. Caitlin O'HaraApril 24, 2011 at 11:48 PM

    Love you. Love Ellie. Love Camp.