The weather took it easy on us this week. We saw 80 degrees on most days, but the humidity fell, and the evenings were very nice. On nights like these, you can give the air conditioner a break and open those windows. Let the night breeze cool your house and the crickets sing you to sleep. The feel outside draws you outdoors. You could spend hours outside if not for one factor that is pretty prevalent at the ‘Shore these days: mosquitoes. The mosquitoes were bad this summer, but they have gotten even worse in September. If you are out at twilight, you’ll feel the tickle on your ankles. You’ll hear the high pitched, quiet squeal just around your head. You feel a tiny pinch on your ankle, look down and see about 10 floating black bugs surrounding your shoes. It looks like someone has them on a string, bouncing them up and down. Unless you have your wits about you, you’ll freak out a little bit, swiping or kicking or rubbing your ankles together as if you’re having some kind of nervous breakdown.
A good friend of the camp, Zach Al-Chokhachi, came to visit us this week. Zach came to camp for years as a camper, counselor, and summer staff member. He was Wilderness Director in 2003. Zach lives in Nashville now and is trying to get his foot in the door of acting and directing. Recently, he expressed an interest in doing a video project for the camp, so this week he came out to begin shooting footage. This trip, Zach spent most of his time taping the facilities and surroundings. He got most of our buildings and some of the camp’s most beautiful views. Zach wanted to reconnect with the Wilderness Camp, so I helped him carry some things up the hill, and we got to share some memories from our days as Wilderness Directors. After getting the camp fire set up, I noticed several mosquitoes around my ankle. I left Zach, hoping the fire would keep them at bay. That would not be the case.
Zach told us the next morning about his night. He had left his tent flaps open, which is a big mistake at Lakeshore’s Wilderness Camp. Zach said that there was a point where he thought, “I should probably close those.” He didn’t. When he laid down, mosquitoes began swarming his head. He swatted several times, and made his ears ring from swatting his face so hard. These are the times that you are glad that if you are going to be stuck here, at least there isn’t someone watching you. Eventually, Zach pulled out his flashlight to survey the tent. He felt like there would be 5 or 6 mosquitoes, but when the light came on, he said that the tent was covered in mosquitoes. He started swinging clothes and blankets over his head, hoping to take out every tiny, black annoying bug. That did not work either. So, on top of the video footage he’ll have to remind him of his trip, Zach will have a bunch of red bumps to keep him thinking about his visit to Lakeshore.
Bishop McAlilly was our other big visitor this week. The Bishop has been on a whirlwind of a tour, seeing a different district in his two Conferences each day. During his visit to the Paris District, Bishop McAlilly made a point to come and tour the camp. We were honored that he took the time to see the camp and get to meet each of the staff while he was here. We hope that the Bishop will get to come visit when he has a chance to stay and relax. There’s no telling what the Bishop will remember when this two week marathon of a trip finally ends, but we will certainly remember him, thanks to just a little side trip to Eva.
The cement truck came in this week to pour the slab for our new storage closet outside the Administration Building. Just before it all dried, the camp staff went out with screwdrivers to write our names in the cement. Martha told the story of how her footprint and initials ended up in the concrete outside the prayer chapel (she accidentally stepped in the concrete, not knowing it was still wet). It’s not very often you get to leave your name in concrete.
At camp, we are often looking for ways to leave our names. You can go to some corner of just about every building at camp and find someone’s name signed. The Resident Counselors sign posts in the Tabernacle each summer. Each Activity Staffer signs the doors of their equipment buildings. The Staff signs parts of the Craft Hut each year, along with their college. Then, many other guests want their names left somewhere at camp. A few years ago, I noticed a few names among the ’97 RCs who were definitely not RCs in ’97. It seemed that a few people from a retreat group wanted their names to live on in posterity with the Resident Counselors. I was incensed that someone would have the nerve to deface our sacred strip of lumber like that. We get territorial about whose name can get left and who cannot.
I remember writing my name on the Craft Hut door when I was in the 9th grade. Two other campers and I signed our name on the inside of the door, which had no signatures at the time. The Craft Director didn’t mind, so I put my name in large letters with a few curly ends on the “T” and “Y” of my name. Over the years, my signature has suffered the fate of many names that are written too large on a blank surface–it has been covered by other names. Now, I make a game out of it at the Craft Hut, asking people if they can find my name. Most people cannot. It peaks through the other names in just a few places. My name is also located under Tent A at Wilderness Camp in several places. I signed during my Volunteer Counseling year, full of slang and misspelled to show hip-hop dialect. I later signed in each of the three years I served as Wilderness Director, where I shared quotes from Alice in Wonderland and the Dave Matthews Band. I was pulling out the parts of me, at that time, that I most wanted to go on with my name.
There is something deep within us that makes us want to leave our name somewhere. So many that come through Lakeshore become obsessed with putting their name down. It gives you a little ownership: “This is the my plank that I signed.” We also look at all those names from years past, scribbled in Lakeshore’s nooks and crannies, and we want a piece of that too. We want people to remember us. We want so badly for our name to be associated with some of those other names on the wall that guests and campers look at and remember nostalgically.
There came a point in my time here, as I read so many anonymous names that I didn’t recognize, and I realized that the names wouldn’t mean too much if there were no memories to associate with them. I decided that it was far more important for me to write my name in a different way during my time if I really wanted ownership. My hope became that I would leave more than a name in our most sacred places. That I might leave such an impression on people that they know me before they even see the name. It is a bit selfish, I know, but I think we all hope for this: that our time spent here meant something. That people look at what we leave and admire it. It’s what we do when we pull out a sharpie marker or paint brush and try to put our name up there in a beautiful or stylish or original way. We want someone to pick a box up off the concrete slab and feel like they’ve discovered a message from a founding father. But, hopefully, we have left so much more. So, my greatest hope, like everyone else, I’m sure, is that when someone stumbles over my name in the Craft Hut, Tabernacle, Tent A, or storage building concrete slab, they will remember something I did and think, ” wow, this is the place where he signed his name.”
We all want our name to resonate like those legends of this place: Papa John Kibbons, Uncle Ben Neal, Miss Martha Holifield, Papa G Lawson. And, if we can’t, we’ll at least have our signature or our name on that list from the camp we remember so vividly. Whether you actually see your name or not, the next time you visit, I bet there’s a good chance that you’ll read names that have been written in other ways in other places. Those names that have been written in your memory. The paint will fade with time. In these other places, they do not fade. They are still there for you to read. And, you will take them with you, when you leave the buildings behind.
Keep our groups in your prayers this weekend: Equipping with Encouragement Ministries, UT Martin AOPi, and the Murray State Wesley Foundation.