Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Corners and memories

There's this game we play at the beginning of Camp Erin called "Corners." Basically, one adult is calling out statements and if they're true for you, you run to whichever corner of the field she is pointing to. It starts off light and fun. If you have a dog, run to that corner. If you have a cat, run to this corner. If you have some larger, four-legged pet, like a cow or a horse or a goat, run to that corner.

And then it starts to get a little more serious. If you've ever been in a hospital to visit someone, come over here. If you hate hospitals, go there. If you've ever visited a loved one in the hospital, move to that corner. The kids, at first full of kid energy and smiles, move more quietly now. If you've lost a grandpa or a grandma, go to this corner. If you've lost a brother, go over there. If you've lost a sister, come over here. If you've lost a friend, go to that corner. If you've lost your mom, come here. If you've lost your dad, go over there.

And I'm standing up high on a step with my camera, but I'm not taking pictures, because I'm frozen, watching all the kids file to each corner. There's about eighty kids at camp this year. Many of these kids, I notice, have lost dads, and it settles in my throat in this big lump and my eyes become moist, because I know. I know this pain. But they are so much younger than I was and it just feels so wrong. I can feel Ricardo's eyes watching me from the other end of the steps, but this year I'm not crying for my own loss. I'm crying for theirs.

The amazing, brilliant thing about kids is that they are often the smartest grievers. Unlike adults, who have grown up and faced grown up problems and forgotten how to play, kids may cry and feel sad in one moment and turn around in the next to play jumprope or kickball. It's like, without trying to, they know they can only handle their grief in little doses at a time. A little dose of sorrow, and then a big dose of playing. I admire them for this, and I think God made them this way. It doesn't mean they don't suffer a lot of sorrow, they do. They just don't necessarily try to swallow it all at once.

The kids at Camp Erin stay in my heart for awhile after camp, like a precious memory I don't often speak of, but cherish deeply. I remember their stories. I remember their tears. I remember their courage. I remember their innocence. I remember their smiles. I remember the ways they reached out to hug each other, to place hands on each other and hold each other. I remember watching them cuddle up in the arms of a trusted adult for comfort and support. I remember how we who were there as volunteers felt so honored to be there for them and how much we, in return, received from them.

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