If you want to work at Timber Ridge Camp, there are two things you have to do.
1: You have to love God.
2: You have to love kids.
Now, I broke commandment number one a while ago, so I’m ineligible for hire, because the entire purpose of the camp is the advancement of God. In fact, it’s so much the camp’s mission that during orientation, our director will give us a line echoed by many Christians throughout my life about any endeavor. It goes something like this:
“If, at the end of the day, all we do is give these kids horse rides, take them out on the banana boat, or show them our cool zipline, then what are we doing here? If they walk away from this camp without a true knowledge of Jesus Christ, then it will be all in vain.”
Really? Is it? I’ve always marveled at this line of reasoning, not least because I’ve had the opportunity to work with kids long-term on multiple occasions. The one thing that I learned about them was that they have a much better memory than you. Promises will be remembered, and should they not be fulfilled, grudges will be had. But beyond that, kids will remember every beautiful thing that you say to them or do for them, even to the point of your annoyance.
If you show up with a clown nose and ride a funny bike, you’re that guy now, and you best not come around here without some wheels. If you do a magic trick, they don’t even want more magic tricks, they want that one. And even though this can get annoying in a hurry for you, you do it because they really believe that you are the crème de la crème of living. And it’s not just the silly stuff that kids remember.
I can remember a child telling me about his brother who had died. Another blurted out at a worship, after being asked what they most admired about their parents, “What, would I be like my dad and run away?” Kids will have the deepest moments that you’ve ever heard of at the drop of a hat. And it’s important that you be there. It’s important that you are you, that you give them some stability or comfort, a respite, if only for a week, from lives that might not be so pleasant.
The “all in vain” train of thought strips all these truly significant moments of what makes them special. It’s quite an extraordinary statement to say that, ultimately, none of it matters if you don’t have Jesus, or if you didn’t communicate a true knowledge of God to a child. Being the cabin uncle to the classy troupe of llamas above, I was able to get them special treats that others couldn’t because I worked in the kitchen. Or after pestering me for a week, Grayson here was finally able to get his Gooey Cake, a rare camp delicacy. But I got to use it to trick him into some life lessons like: 1) Don’t be a crappy person, and 2) Make good choices.
The point of this is to say that, regardless of whether or not God exists, these moments do, and they mean something. To some kids, and to some staff members as well, they mean everything. They touch us, change us, and make us better people.
I’m sorry if you think that’s all in vain.
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