It seems insignificant, too simple, a side dish to the main thing of what we are trying to do at camp. But for some kids, encouragement is that fresh drink of hope that enables them to carry on.
I know someone who loved going to the dentist as a child. The receptionist always smiled, the hygienist told him what a good job he was doing at holding still and brushing and opening his mouth up wide. For several years he thought that he had a unique talent. That he alone could sit and spit and say “aaaahhhh” so that those cheerful dental professionals were wowed by his abilities. It was only later, in his adulthood, that he realized they did this with all the kids who obeyed. That they were simply being encouraging. But for a boy who had grown up without it, encouragement was a rare and dazzling phenomenon.
There was a girl who arrived at camp and didn’t smile. Most kids are excited, they are hyper and nervous and running around all crazy meeting their cabin mates and counselors and hugging their parents goodbye. Her face showed none of this, only stone. The next day our camp speaker sought her out, wanting to ask how her first day at camp had gone. He couldn’t find her.
Had we somehow lost a camper in the woods? Was she hiding in the canteen, buried amongst the snickers bars refusing to come out? Had she been abducted by Big Foot and a passel of squirrels?
Nope, she was smiling and he didn’t recognize her.
I see her once in awhile around town and she always smiles at me. The last time, she ran over to our car dragging a friend. She introduced me, told me she was coming to camp, and dug through her buddy’s backpack to yank out a camper registration. As we drove away they were double checking the camp dates to make sure that they had signed up for the same week.
As Christians, we should be in the business of giving courage. Christ is our hope and our strength when we have none. God has reduced Himself to one of us and died among us so that we might live. We have courage to give. A smile, a hug, a crazy skit, a cabin full of bran new friends. Encouragement. This is one of the things we strive to do at Camas Meadows. Pray for us this summer that in Christ we will succeed.
I Thessalonians 5:11a–“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…”