Someone complemented me the other day in a way that I don’t think I’d ever heard before. The words were simple, but the meaning is something that I’ve been praying to be realized for many months or even years.
In May I applied for and was offered a job working at a Jewish Community Center for their Summer Day-Camp program. It turned out to be an incredible job that seemed almost too good to be true. I basically spent ten weeks singing songs with kids, playing games, learning about Israel, going on cool field trips, going swimming, learning some Hebrew words and having a lot of fun all while getting paid for it. Of course every job has it’s ups and downs and there were definitely moments I questioned what I was doing, but more than that it was an incredible opportunity to reach into an area of society I would probably never normally be able to reach.
I had different groups that I was assigned to for different sessions. My first group was about 24 second and third graders. They were a lot of fun as they were usually very engaged and eager to be involved. The second group was some older kids grades 4,5 and 6. They were a little bit more of a challenge as the group was so diverse. There were little petite fourth graders playing dodgeball next to big sixth graders. The third group was first graders who had all kinds of wiggles and energy and all I could think of with this group was Controlled Mayhem. My fourth group was a big mix of grades and we were a sand sculpture group that had the tough job of going to the beach everyday to learn how to make sand sculptures. The last group was a big group of 2nd and 3rd graders whose names I finally figured out near the end of the session.
Lots of names and faces. Lots of lives and hearts and dreams and potential. I had an opportunity the very last day of camp to address the entire group of campers. It was part of the morning skit and I knew that in that moment I had a chance to either make them laugh, or speak to their hearts… I chose both.
I stood before them without any costume or anything to hide who I was. I introduced myself as Matthew, a Head Counselor for one of the groups. I told them that I had been there all Summer and wanted to share something very important with them. I told them that even though we dress silly and act crazy sometimes, there are also times that it’s ok to just be who we are. That each of them has something inside of them called potential. The ability to do or become anything they want.
Somewhere along the timeline of our lives we go from becoming dreamers to becoming doers. But it’s not always that we’re doing what we dreamed of. Ask a child what they want to be when they grow up and you’ll hear some big ideas and you’ll see some eyes sparkle. And then somewhere along the line we’re told we’re not smart enough, good enough, tall enough, pretty enough, funny enough, fast enough, etc. etc. etc. Or a list of other things. Somewhere along the road we stop dreaming.
And so for just a moment, I told the kids not to stop dreaming. That even though we may pretend sometimes to be something we’re not, it’s ok to be who we are and continue dreaming.
One of the counselors and I were talking a while after the camp. We both agreed about how incredible it would be to be able to catch up with some of these kids after five or ten years. I’m sure they will have forgotten names and faces and speeches and encouragement we gave them. But hopefully, just maybe, they will remember to keep dreaming and to keep being just the way their Father created them.
As I walked to the car that last day of camp, one of the few other Christian staff members said simply “I think you were the salt of the camp”.
That’s my prayer, almost everyday I go, that I would have a spirit of wisdom and discernment and be salt and light in the dark places.
My journey has taken a turn. I applied and was accepted to Army Officer Candidate School. I leave Tuesday the 24th of August to begin a new season and chapter. I’ll be working in the Army Reserves in a Civil Affairs unit near my home in San Jose. I continue to pray for a spirit of wisdom and discernment and to be light in dark places as I learn to lead men and women, some of whom have forgotten how to dream.
The LORD shall go forth like a mighty man; He shall stir up His zeal like a man of war. He shall cry out, yes, shout aloud; He shall prevail against His enemies.
Thanks for reading.