It is just a few weeks early for Spring on the calendar, but you would not know it being outside at camp. The days have been delightfully warm with a great mix of wind and sunshine. The trees have responded by swelling up their buds, and on some trees, flowering. I have heard several say that this is a good bit earlier than most years for trees to begin budding. If this is, indeed, the end of Winter, it scares me to think about what the bugs will be like at Summer Camp. The farmers say that it’s important each year to have a strong, long-lasting freeze to kill off the large numbers of pests that reek havoc on crops. I have already found my first tick, conveniently tucked just under the waistline of my shorts.
I am something of a magnet for ticks. There are just people in this world that have an attraction for certain things. I always wondered how certain guys could always have girls interested in them, when I was a shy, nerdy high school kid. Even when guys were complete jerks, girls just could not resist them. “Come on, I would be so nice to you and fawn over your every word, and you want to be with that guy?” Well, I take every tick I see, press my nail into the center of their backs, until I feel and hear a pop, then sometimes even pull their legs off if I feel a big ax to grind. And yet, they still come in droves to see me and try to be a part of me (literally). How can so many of the same things be attracted to something so bad for them?
Today was Ashlee’s birthday. Ashlee is one of our newest housekeeping/maintenance workers. She started out volunteering to help, and Corky appreciated her work so much that she started working with us on a more full-time basis. Corky would ask her to clean the cabins on the boy’s side of camp, then come back to find them, not only clean, but with waxed floors. The cabins hadn’t looked so good in a long time. So, on her birthday, Corky got Vickie to print out a card, traveled around collecting signatures from staff members, and even whipped up a homemade strawberry cake. Ashlee unwittingly chose the Mexican Restaurant in Camden for her birthday meal. It is one of the best places to eat in Camden, but they have a reputation for how they celebrate birthdays.
A group of waiters comes out in a line, singing some song in Spanish I am not familiar with. Their voices are nowhere remotely on key, and it is sung with the enthusiasm of a 13 year old at a mandatory class musical. They put a large sombrero on the head of the birthday celebrant, and then plunge a plate of whip cream into his or her face. It happened to me once, and I had so much whipped cream, I could cover one nostril and blow a string of whip cream out of my nose. The upside is that you get a dessert on tortilla chips with cinnamon, sugar, honey, and that topping that gets put on cinnamon rolls along with an excellent profile picture for your facebook page. Ashlee met the fate that so many other unsuspecting staff members have on their first birthday at El Vallarta.
The 100th West Tennessee Men’s Emmaus Walk is happening this week at camp. It is an incredibly powerful retreat. I have seen adult of all ages reduced to whimpering, sobbing clumps of humanity. It’s that good kind of crying, of course, but an intense experience, nonetheless. It reminds me of how many adults out there do not get many opportunities for retreats of this magnitude–not nearly as many as our youth. We get the idea that after age 18 it’s no longer important to take this time apart to focus on our faith this intensely. When these adults get that, it is a beautiful thing to see. I know a specific activity that happens later in the weekend, and if I timed it right, I would see so many grown men crying, you might think that Tennessee just lost a bowl game. It is amazing how you can avoid experiences like this for so long, but when it grabs on to you, it gets you in a powerful way.
As I was walking up the hill to check on the Emmaus group, I had to dodge a familiar site that I was not ready to encounter. It was an orangy-red color, it flew as if floating on a cloud, and it did not look happy. I am speaking of what is probably my second archest arch enemy (the tick is, of course, first): the Red Wasp. I tried to keep up friendly relationships with these awful, awful creatures. I tried to live and let live. I did not want to have problems with the Red Wasp. But, they just couldn’t have it that way. One day, I was doing maintenance work on a water pump house, and I had to get in to treat the water system. I opened up the door to the pump house, and quickly realized that there was a wasp nest right in the doorway. I hoped to do my water work and not disturb the wasps. I also hoped that they would recognize this and respect my need to treat the water. Before I could do anything though, I saw one of the wasps pumping his stinger up and down like a raised fist in some kind of brutal riot. His wings started flapping at such a rate that they seemed to disappear. Then he was airborne. He landed on my knuckle and stung. I retreated, shocked by such aggression. I went back to my house, doctored my wound, and came back. But, it was not the same man who went back to the water pump house. It was a man on fire–a man bent on revenge.
I returned to the open doorway, surveyed the nest and wasps still left there. I approached with more caution this time and more determination. Their time of reckoning had come. I pulled my copy of Leaves of Grass out of my backpack and went to work. I tried to be kind. I tried to co-exist. They brought it on themselves, though. I won’t tell you the gruesome details of what Walt Whitman and I did to that wasp and the rest of his family, but it was very Old Testament. From then on, I have had a pretty tenuous relationship with all Red Wasps. I don’t like to say that I hate anything. I am all for keeping up the delicate balance that God established in creation. I understand that everything serves an important purpose to that balance that we cannot begin to understand. But, in the end, when you sting my knuckle for no good reason, you are toying with your own destruction.
In the end, sometimes we are attracted to the complete wrong things for us. Sometimes we avoid that thing we really should get so much more of. We spend so much of our life trying and trying and getting it wrong, so that maybe on a few occasions it will, in fact, be right. How many times did we make mistakes in love, but still hope the right one would come? How many times did we pray and pray to God for things that, in hindsight, we’re glad he didn’t grant? We continue for those times when the planets do line up and we are perfect harmony with everything else. It is only in passing–we will soon return to the wrong attractions. But, don’t stop trying. Those right times are worth thousands of wrongs.
This weekend we are hosting the Walk to Emmaus and interviewing for our Summer Staff. Pray for guidance in every case. Until next week…