As you may know, I am spending the month of January in the dormancy of winter, working on a book. And, like last year at this time, I am offering my blog to you. Last year we looked into our Breaking Points and found community and grace in grief and vulnerability. This year we are looking into our past, and finding the weaving of community that stitches us to our present. I will be posting these pieces at These Here Hills. Their authors will be happy to receive and respond to your comments.
The “Long Ago: Community” series is also a contest. The winner will receive a scholarship to one of my upcoming Haven writing retreats in Montana. So breathe deeply into a cherished memory of yesterday and today and share with us here. We all seek community somehow. Let us know how community finds its way back to you. Here is the blog post I wrote about this subject. Please enjoy this lovely piece by Peggy Welsh. yrs. Laura
Summer Camp, by Peggy Welsh
My dad died a few months before I started first grade, leaving my mom with four young kids under the age of 10. The first couple of years I didn’t realize how poor we were because I was young, we lived in a decent house and we had food to eat but as the years went by I realized there wasn’t much cash around our house.
When I was in the fifth grade I joined 4-H because it was something I could walk to and it didn’t cost much money. I always learned new things and it was a fun way to spend time with my friends. The one thing that did cost money was the summer camp in Jamestown, Virginia. We all talked about it but I knew it was something I couldn’t ask for. It seemed like the best adventure ever, getting on a bus with friends and being away from home for a whole week. As summer drew close my friends kept asking if I could go and I kept telling them I wasn’t sure, I was embarrassed to tell them I didn’t have the money. While they were making plans to go I became more and more envious.
And then it happened. Someone sponsored my week at camp and the day before everyone was to leave, our housekeeper told me I was going. I couldn’t believe it, I had been crying and moping around the house for days and maybe she just couldn’t stand it any longer and called someone at the 4-H office but however this particular miracle happened – I was stunned and grateful and I believe Mrs. Poe was happy to have me out of her hair for a week. I quickly packed a bag and pulled myself together, I don’t remember how I got to the bus but I do remember how fun it was to be on a bus for 6 hours with a group of laughing, joking, silly girls. I had one dollar to last me for the whole week of camp and I was a little nervous about that, but I figured I would just be very careful.
4-H camp was the best thing that had ever happened to me. We did crafts, went hiking, sat at camp fires and even sang Kumbaya. At night, in the bunk house we were in no hurry to go to sleep. I kept the girls in stitches with funny stories until the camp counselor would threaten to duct tape my mouth if I didn’t go to sleep. One night we had a candlelight service where we put small candles on paper plates, waded out into the James river, lit our candles and sent our floating points of light out into the water – it was beautiful and magic. We went to Jamestown on a day trip and saw the replicas of the three ships that first sailed into the new world. Everyone was excited about going to a play called the Common Glory. I started to worry about the cost and if I would I be the only one left in camp if I didn’t have enough money, and I wondered what I would do. I decided to take my one dollar and put it in the little bank at the camp store so it wouldn’t get lost and see how much it would cost to go to the play. Now this might not seem like a big deal to anyone else but I was a worrier and even though it was a miracle that I even got to go to camp I was worried about that play.
The next day, when all the girls were going to the store to buy candy and treats I went to the little bank window and told the lady I wanted to put my dollar bill in the bank where it would be safe, to my surprise when she pulled up my name she said I already had five dollars in the account. Again, I was stunned, relieved and excited that whoever paid for my trip to camp had gone the extra mile and provided spending money, something they knew would be in short supply. I almost burst into tears with relief as I said a silent prayer of thanks. I knew that someone was looking out for me upstairs and thus began a lifelong practice of recognizing the hand of the Lord in my life. I know that God answers prayers and he usually uses his angels or saints here on earth to help us along our journey. That one special week at a little camp on the James River in southern Virginia helped build a foundation of faith that would see me though the many tough times ahead and it helped motivate me to look for opportunities to perform random acts of kindness for others – little miracles where the giver was never known.
That summer adventure that some stranger or neighbor paid for was one of the best memories of my brief childhood.