A Camp Lesson
A Camp Lesson in Friendship
When I was a camp nurse, many years ago after I graduated from college, I had to conduct the evening vespers. Believe it or not I struggled with this. It was a church based camp but not so much that I was expected to give a sermon. Evening vespers had been mostly done by the director or assistant director and had some lesson that capped off the days activities, more or less. But since I had done more than just sit in my cabin waiting for the injured, tired and homesick, the assistant director thought I should also take part. I am not much for public speaking and you have to admit speaking to a group of tweens is not always that easy. It can be a tough crowd.
The night before it was my turn I was sitting in the camp kitchen with the cook , who made me laugh until my sides ached. We laughed each night while I sat having a cup of tea and he worked preparing the next days "adventures in food", as he called it. I had made another friend that summer who was the cook's assistant who was usually there as well. I loved those evenings. I loved camp. This particular night it struck me how fascinating camp was. We were all from very different backgrounds. Some of us were out of college, some hadn't even gotten there yet. Some counselors were athletic and loud and some were motherly, gentle. I started thinking about all of them and why I liked each one, what they meant to me. The following night that is what my vesper was all about. It was about each person I had been working with for the past weeks and why I liked them. I then played Peter Gabriel's song. "Don't Give Up" . What can I say, sometimes I do have a flare for the dramatic. And it was a hit with all those tweens.
19 summers have past since then and I can say that I still use that vesper in my daily life. I use it to remind myself of the good people I am surrounded by. The ones who are athletic, the ones who are loud. The ones that make me laugh. The ones who inspire me to be better and the ones who inspire me to let things go. The friends I have had since I was a toddler and the ones I met just in the past year. The friends who have to come to me again after a pause in our friendship, for whatever the reason and the friends who never let our friendship pause. The friends whose expertise I call on to get me through aches and pains and child rearing. The friends who have picked up where my mother left off and the ones who live too far away to hug me in person. The friends who have been able to say "I am sorry" when things go wrong and the ones who can't quite put that into words.
Last week I had the chance to get away with a few friends. Six friends on an island with sun and sand and rum. I will be honest in saying as it drew closer I found myself worrying if we would all get along for five days. If our different personalities might clash like waves breaking on the rocks. I love them all for different reasons but sometimes what someone loves in one person can be similar to nails squeaking down a chalkboard to someone else. I needn't have worried. We had a wonderful time. We laughed and made fun of one another and ourselves. Drank a tad too much rum and made heads turn, sometimes with a smile and sometimes with a look of complete disdain. We all got some degree of sunburn. I was mildly reminded by one friend who wore a visor I found particularly funny, how her face escaped the scathing redness mine had attracted sans visor.
After a few days together shyness abated, laughter abounded and drama existed only because there was no cell service. And although they all have qualities unique to themselves the common thread, the piece that draws me near to all of them, is their sense of humor. The ability to make others laugh is a gift and a common link in all my friendships. If I had to give a vesper it might have been a bit profane, mothers without children underfoot apparently let their hair down, but it would have otherwise been similar to what I said that summer 19 years ago. I am grateful for the gifts my friends share, for the weight they add to my own existence and their humor which settles around me and makes me feel as though the warmth of that kitchen from a long ago summer isn't really that far away after all.