I hate summer camp – well actually, I hate the expense and trouble and time it takes to get the kids there and home again.
That was my thought as I identified the camp’s entrance gate. “Yup. This is it,” I thought as I turned the old van onto the grounds and into the sweltering asphalt parking lot. I was there to retrieve the children of our church after a week of Bible camp on what must have been the hottest day of the summer. Naturally, my van’s overworked air-conditioner had given up the ghost somewhere along the two hour drive to Timberlee, and the equatorial wind swirling in the open van window made it difficult to breathe. Nevertheless, as I maneuvered my vehicle across the sticky asphalt and glided into a parking space, I assumed a brave face as I shut off the motor. Peeling myself off the sweaty car seat, I opened the door. And there they were, the six kids from our church, sitting in the shade of a tree, chattering away, oblivious to the world. I reached through the open car window and honked the horn. Recognizing me, they hopped to their feet and rushed the van, laughing and teasing each other.
Before I could usher them into the metal hot-box for the long ride home, they begged me to make a quick stop at the camp store so they could buy some trinkets for gifts to their parents. Little Ben, a freckled six year old, raced in to the store with the other kids, but emerged the last. As the kids piled into the van I clucked my approval at the various key chains, stamped coins, and other souvenirs clutched in small, sweaty palms. Ben, though, carried two fistfuls of candy bars. “Are you sure you want candy bars?” I asked, my disappointment evident. “Unless you eat them fast, you’ll have a gooey mess in a couple minutes. You’ll have two hours in a hot car. Why don’t you return them and get something else?”
The little fellow looked down at the clutch of candy and thought about what I said. “Don’t go away,” he said. “I’ll be right back.” He spun before I could say anything, and raced back into the store.
“Good,” I thought. “Maybe he will buy something for his parents, now.” I stood outside the van, listening to the excited conversation of the children within, growing impatient, wondering at the persistent nature of selfishness, feeling, truth-be-told, a bit self-righteous.
Ben emerged shortly and walked carefully down the store steps and over towards the van. In his arms he cradled a bag of ice. On the bag, lined up neatly beside each other were five Snicker’s Bars. While I applauded his cleverness, I regretted his stubborn self-centeredness. Then he was standing before me, looking up, smiling proudly. “That’s real smart, Ben,” I said, “but wouldn’t you really like to get something for your mom and dad?”
“Oh, but these aren’t for me,” he answered, grinning. “I got them for my dad. He loves Snickers bars and I got five so he could take a Snickers break at work every day for a week. And now they won’t melt before I get home.”
There I stood speechless, shown up by the unquenchable love of a small boy, his logic and persistence. This child’s giving spirit magnified the smallness of my heart. Suddenly, I felt wonderfully proud of him. Ben climbed in and cradled his load all the way home. I smiled all the way. I love summer camp.