Cheering Section

Just over a year ago, I remember sitting in our largest indoor meeting space at camp, The Homestead. I had sat in that room many times before. As a new-to-camp 19 year old, out of my element, knowing no one. As a returning summer staffer, lying on my stomach, backpack still attached throughout devotions, reeking of campfire from that morning’s pancake cookout. As a newly pregnant 32 year old, surrounded by dear, lifelong friends, attending that year’s Women’s Retreat, hanging on each of Sandy’s words. Having no idea that just over a year later I would be back, with my family, employed and on full time, year round staff at this same place. From 1993 to 2008, back, not leading just my family group in a discussion, but the summer staff in devotions. Full, crazy circle.

And so many of those moments happened in The Homestead. Times of worship. Rambunctious rounds of kickball. Talent Shows. Movie nights. DTR talks. Cat shows complete with a real mountain lion. Dance parties. Dramatic “Big Game” intros, complete with dry ice and VHS amateur movie created hoopla.

But a year ago, a night unfolded in that same room, unlike any other. Friendship Camp was coming to a close. This is a camp that serves adults with developmental disabilities and is truly the highlight of the summer. This week, specifically, had been harrowing. There had been a fatal accident along Bohemian Highway. We’d had the water give out, making even the simplest tasks more challenging. A call to the emergency services had been made after a camper encountered complications with a heart issue. Another camper had been sent home for extremely inappropriate comments to campers and staff.

Something magical transpired in the Homestead that last day, though.

The infamous slide show…we did it regularly at the end of each session. Music strategically placed, building to the expected crescendos. On this night, though, there was a new energy, not based on the musical selection. A previously unattained level of enthusiasm. It truly was pure, unabashed joy. As each picture appeared, the cheers and screaming and squealing ensued. Each camper turning around searching for their friends just pictured….often so preoccupied with high fiving them that they missed their own beautiful faces gracing the screen. Every single picture received the same treatment—full throttle love. There were no lines of demarkation between campers or issues of popularity. It was all out woo-hoo-ing for each and every person.

Lessons after lessons were there for the taking each year at Friendship Camp. But this moment, for me, will stand out as a highlight. A model of Jesus, in the flesh and blood of those around me. And it wasn’t just a cheering section….it was a cheering room, a grandstand full of support. And boy, oh, boy are we a starving world for this type of unbridled encouragement. So wound up in our selfish needs, desires and wants that we forget to be so excited for those around us, afraid to miss our own moment. Can you seriously imagine that?!?! Being so focused on celebrating another that we forget about ourself long enough that we might even miss our own “moment”?

Who is in your cheering section? And more importantly, who are YOU cheering for? I need this visual and reminder second by second. I love people, but sadly, rather than getting caught up in their joy and lives, I’m often overly distracted, looking ahead to my next, big moment. I need to go to cheer camp and get a tune up for sure! Or a swift kick in the rear. Either way, I love how God moves and breathes into our lives through the most unlikely of sources, and in the most unexpected ways. Slide shows in the Homestead. Adults who get written off by many in our society as not worthy of cheers, joy and full on, over the top acceptance. These very same adults showing how it is meant to be done.

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I am finally re-reading Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird” and this post came to fruition due to her moving chapter on Special Olympics, called “Polaroid”.

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