Every year in June I direct a camp in Blowing Rock, NC for developmentally disabled adults. Since moving to New Mexico, I have at times thought that it’s just too expensive and time-consuming to go back every summer, but as the time rolls around I realize I’m not just doing this because it’s a charitable thing to do or because the camp needs my help. I lead this camp, I participate, because it’s really the best thing I can do for myself and subsequently, the best thing I can do for my family and for the parish I serve.
I don’t exactly know why or how or when it happens, but at some point during the week of crafts and devotions and sing-alongs, the talent show and shared meals, I remember the person I want to be. I see the woman I desire to become. I find myself slowing down, paying attention to small things, saying thank-you more often, laughing at myself, holding hands with someone. At some point in the midst of the campers’ delight, their unique spiritual maturity and their special needs, I find myself more loving, kinder, a gentler spirit and I have to admit I am happy and relieved to find and be that woman again.
It’s not that I dwell in self-loathing. It’s not that I hate who I am the other fifty-one weeks out of the year. It’s just that I’m not always pleased with how I handle things, how I process events, how I participate in relationships. It just seems that so often during the rest of the year, the rest of my life, I hurry through the days and worry through the nights and I’m not always very nice or very hopeful and I look in the mirror and I’m not happy with who I see. Special Days, this camp I attend, puts me back on the spiritual track I try to follow. It makes me slow down, makes me be attentive to things going on around me, makes me sing and laugh and reach for the hand of somebody else. And somehow by Tuesday night while the campers congratulate each other on their great talents or Wednesday morning when we’re heading out to Tweetsie Railroad, I catch a glance of myself in the mirror and I see her. I recognize her, that woman I want to be. There she is, the kind woman, the loving woman, the gentle woman. And truth be told, I’m afraid that if I quit going to camp, quit participating in this summer experience, I will lose her forever and that I will not remember how to find her.
So, during the first week of June I will be in the mountains. I’m directing a camp called Special Days. I’m playing the guitar. I’m helping with crafts. I’m dancing. I’m serving meals and rocking in a rocking chair. I’m leading devotions and I’m riding the train at Tweetsie. And most importantly, I’m finding the woman I want to be. The good news for my family is that when I come home I plan to bring her back!