Every Father’s Day since 1996 I have either boarded a plane or drove off in my car headed to the same destination: Opportunity Camp.
The camp is located in the little city of Felton; the nearest “big” city is Scotts Valley (by “big” I mean that it has a Starbucks. The “coffee shop” in Felton sells coffee, crystals, and incense).
For nearly 50 years, volunteers have come from points across the country to serve at Opportunity Camp. This year we will have staff from the Bay Area, New York City, Seattle, Dallas, and Denver. Among the senior leadership, I have the least seniority and I’ve been to camp for sixteen years. Our campers are in the Contra Costa County social service pipeline. For many of them, this will not be their first time at our camp.
Opportunity Camp engenders tremendous loyalty among our staff for one simple reason: the kids. Tough, small, wild, shy, loud. Kids. For one week out of the year we get to show them they are not just kids but God’s kids. For this week they will be listened to, valued, affirmed, and loved. The realities of life will return on Saturday; but for now, they can simply enjoy life.
We have staff that started coming as high school students and are now in their thirties, coming almost every year in between. I am a bit humbled to work alongside them. They pay their own way, give up a week of vacation, get dirty, and keep coming back. I’m not sure what they are like the other 51 weeks of the year, but for this one week they shine. It reminds me that each of us bears a part of God’s light — unfortunately, we’re not always so good at letting it shine.
Camp will wrap up in a few days. The campers will be loaded on buses and taken back to their pick-up points. Staff will do one last walk-through and head to the staff banquet on Saturday night. Others will fly back home (like me). Eventually we will scatter to the four winds from which we came. But we will carry with us memories from this week. First-time memories, collective memories.
Most of all, I hope we carry with us the promise that Opportunity Camp holds. The promise that every person has potential and is special to God and, therefore, to the rest of us.