There’s one in every group’the one kid that dresses differently and seems to “fit in” about as well as a round peg in a square hole. In our group it was Darlene.
When we piled into the church bus and headed out for a week at Camp Cherith, Darlene sat up front with the adults and talked with them about her favorite books. The rest of us sang and told silly jokes for about an hour until we finally pulled into the camp’s shady gravel lane.
It was so cool! All of the buildings looked like log cabins, and in the center was a large grassy area with a flagpole and picnic tables. We couldn’t wait to experience a week of horseback riding, swimming, hiking, archery, crafts, and games. This would be the highlight of our summer.
There were six of us assigned to each cabin. I quickly read the list of who would be bunking in with me: my best friend, Tammy, and her sister, Candy (yea!), and Janelle and Rachel, who were twins I really liked.
“No way!” I said with a groan. “Tammy, look at this! Darlene’s in our cabin.”
“Are you serious? She’s so weird,” Tammy remarked. “And if we break any rules, she’ll tell on us. She always does. No talking after lights go out, or anything.”
The first day was wonderful. We went to a great welcome meeting. We toured the camp store, where we could buy books, candy, notecards, stamps, and colorful T-shirts with the Camp Cherith logo on the front. We ate our first lunch in the large mess hall, and sang songs that included creative hand motions and standing up to act like a bear. (Sounds goofy, but it was really fun.) Everyone prayed a special camp prayer out loud, and the food was delicious.
Our cabin group was scheduled to do most of the activities together. That was fine with me, because Tammy and Candy were my close friends, and the twins were loads of fun. I planned just to ignore Darlene and have a good time.
The first afternoon we went canoeing. Slicing across the greenish-blue lake was great–until Darlene almost turned our canoe over! We managed to stay afloat, but we got really wet anyway from splashing each other. That night I don’t even remember my head hitting the pillow. We were all so tired that it seemed like just minutes before the morning bugle crackled out over the camp intercom system, signaling that it was time to rise and shine.
Darlene was the most organized. She hurried across the gravel path and through the outdoor shower and brushed her teeth in the steel sink on the side of the building while the rest of us lazed in bed. Then she returned, singing, “Oh, what a beautiful morning!” It was really annoying. We all looked at each other and rolled our eyes while we picked out our outfits for the day.
Darlene was prone to disasters, and she always seemed to be making a mess. One of our crafts for the week was to tie-dye designs onto a T-shirt. Darlene tripped over the bucket of dye, sending us all scurrying from our seats on the grass just seconds before a bright-orange dye puddle flooded the ground.
Toward the end of the week we got tired of trying to be nice to Darlene. Playing mean tricks on her became our favorite sport. We snickered as we strung up a pair of her underwear on the flagpole. During our horseback riding session, Darlene had a hard time mounting the horse. She kept putting the wrong foot in the stirrup. Leaving her with a camp counselor, we trotted off down the trail, howling with laughter. Later we threw her toothpaste and shampoo down the deep, dark outdoor toilet. We figured that would keep her from singing on the last morning.
The night before we left camp, we attended a big bonfire. It was really neat. Every-one sat around the fire, watching the flames roast our marshmallows. We were asked to get into our small groups, and a counselor had a special Bible study with us.
Annie, our counselor, had a gift for each of us. She passed them around, and we greedily tore off the wrapping paper. It was a journal, and there were questions written in it. She said we would answer some of the questions together, and then we could use the rest of the book as a diary or scrapbook or whatever we wanted.
Then Annie read the first couple of verses from Galatians 6. They tell us that we should please Jesus by helping others with their burdens. And that if we think we’re too important to help someone, we’re really a “nobody.”
My heart stung as Annie read the first question from our journal. “How did you help someone this week?”
Tears welled up in my eyes as I thought of how cruel we had been to Darlene. I didn’t encourage her when she embarrassed herself. I laughed at her when she couldn’t do something well instead of taking a minute to help her. I even threw her stuff down the toilet!
That night I apologized to Darlene. We all did.
* * *
I’ve tried to practice what I learned that summer. Jesus loves every person that I see around me, and He thinks they are precious . . . even if I’m tempted to think that they are “so weird.” I don’t want to disappoint Jesus by classifying people as being cool or weird. Instead I’ll try to be kind and helpful to everyone. It’s the only way to be a “somebody” instead of a “nobody.”
Illustrated by Joel D. Springer