Another year of Opportunity Camp is over. I’m not sure how many years Opportunity Camp has been around; after 40, I quit counting. Myself, I’ve been coming since 1996 (what I mean is, they keep allowing me come).
Opportunity Camp is a non-traditional camp, working with kids who are in the social services system. I keep coming for two reasons: the kids and the relationships.
Regarding the kids, I have become convinced of several things. First of all, although they may come from a different background or a difficult situation, they are still kids who want to be kids. They may not act that way on Sunday or Monday, but by the end of the week I believe they are acting the way they wish they could act all year but can’t for fear of being made fun of or not fitting in. It’s heart-warming to see this big, burly kids singing songs about hippos and doing the chicky-chicky dance. I’m convinced that every kid wants to be a kid … but for some of these kids, they have had to grow up way too fast.
These kids are sponges for positive interaction. I’ve got one kid in mind — who will remain anonymous — who lights up every time we sit down and talk about anything. It’s like he just wants to sit there. I’ll ask questions and congratulate him on good answers. This year, I was intentional about telling him that he had the potential to rise above his situation. From the look on his face, I think he actually believed me. Maybe that’s what he needs most: someone who believes in him. Maybe that’s what we all need.
I’ve also learned that even the hardest kid to reach has something to love about them. It may not be readily apparent. It may take some patience. But it’s in there. And it wants to come out. And when it comes out, it’s hard to put back.
The second thing that keeps drawing me back to Opportunity Camp are the relationships. Like it or not, I’ve become an elder statesman simply by staying alive. This places me in a unique position with our younger staff. They range from high school students whom I’ve had the privilege of watching progress through college. Youth ministers, other adults. The list is varied. I get to reconnect with minister friends that I knew back in the 1990’s. I meet new ones. We squeeze in bits and pieces of serious conversation between kids chasing lizards and blaring whistles.
We like to say that “camp is for the kids.” And it is … little kids, big kids, young kids, and old kids.
See you next year!