Monday, June 22, 2009

Now why did I do that?? Oh now I know!!

A year ago, about this exact time, I was lying in a tent on a saggy air mattress thinking to myself that I had done this "camp thing" enough. I had been going to camp since I was 12 and hadn't missed many years. Enough was enough. That was that and I decided that I was done, been there done done done that done that, finished, no need to do it any more. Not that I had a bad time, it was really quite fun - except the rain, food, heat, humidity, etc. But even with those things I still had a good time. Loved the girls I was working with, loved the leaders I was working with, it was beautiful but I was just done. (Maybe the fact that according to my little informal survey I discovered to my disgust and horror and sorrow that I was the oldest woman there from our Stake played a part in my decision!! Not that I am too old to take it though! And in fact perhaps I should take some pride in still be quite able to be there and endure whatever we had to endure!)

But then one day in the spring Gretchen called me and asked if I would please go to camp again this year and in a weak moment and without a second's hesitation I said, "Sure!" So camp comes along and I was suddenly dreading it, just didn't want to go, thought about being totally irresponsible and just not showing up. But I packed up the car with tons of gear and headed north to Camp Tilden.

And then I found out why I was there:

1. The girls who greeted me with hugs and excitement that we'd be working together again for the 3rd year. Nothing replaces the feeling of being loved!!

2. The first night I had a very interesting conversation with a wonderful girl, Gus. I met her the first year I went, she is full of enthusiasm, joy, fun, clearly a role model for all of the other girls. The kind of girl you fall in love with immediately. That night I heard her whole story.

She comes from an incredibly disfunctional family, in fact she has lived with her grandmother for several years just to get away. No father in the picture. Brother is mentally wacked out as a result of drugs and mental disorder magnified by his drug abuse - he doesn't even know her anymore she explained. Other siblings struggling incredibly.

She was an angry young woman when she first went to camp. Picking fights with the other girls, wanting to run away, hard to deal with. She'd spend hours shooting baskets just to work off her anger. Leaders didn't know what to do with her or about her.

She explained that one day she took a hard look at the people around her and started to think about why some people were happy and others were miserable and decided it was the Gospel that made the difference. And at that point she decided that it had to become the central thing in her life. She set goals, Temple Marriage is a huge one for her, started to work hard at changing herself, focused on doing what would make her happy and living a Gospel centered life even though she had little support and even ridicule from those who should have been especially supportive. And there she is today, an amazing young woman. What a lesson she is to me, and what hope she exudes.

3. And then there's Sammy. Sammy owns and runs the camp, it is her family property. Had been an exclusive boys camp. now she hosts not only the girl's camp but other campers as well. She has canoes and tubes for those who want to canoe on the Big Sugar, she has cabins, and RV hookups. I met Sammy 3 years ago and we became instant friends. She is an amazing woman, a former dancer who still teaches master classes, I don't know her age but I'd guess she's in her late 70s or possibly early 80s. She is a classy woman, drives a bright red 4 wheeler she calls "The Streak", lives by herself, fords her road, that is water covered most of the time, to get in and out. She is devoted to the Church although when she joined the opposition she faced was huge, including her minister telling her husband to leave her if she decided to be baptized.

I was distressed when I got to camp to learn that she was in the hospital with heart problems. But then she and her daughter drove up to check things out - she had just been released from the hospital and was on her way home but wanted to make sure things were okay. She was dressed stylishly and was happy and passed hugs all around. I could tell she was tired though, and a little breathless.

The following day I led my girls on a hike, maybe we should say a walk down the road, to her house where we worked on certification and then she invited us in and showed us amazing pictures dating back to the late 1800s. Pictures of the original camp and the store her grandfather had started in Cyclone, MO which no longer exists, the swinging bridge that people had to use to get to the store, the camp when it was an exclusive boys camp (they even had a golf range), and post cards autographed by Tyrone Power and Henry Fonda when they were filming "Jessie James" there. She shared her conversion story with the girls and her testimony.

We went back again the next day and pulled weeds from her flower gardens and her tomato plants. And later she treated us to ice cream at the camp store.

She and I spent a couple of hours talking about life and the future and politics and love and marriage. Her advice to me, "Do something for yourself!" I'll take that to heart.

My visit with her was totally worth the camp experience. How often are blessings found in the most unexpected places when we are doing the things that we'd least like to be doing!!
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