I have been a camp counselor during the summer for five years, and I have found each time to be transformative and a chance for God to very clearly work in unexpected ways. At this camp, we choose new names, allowing a chance to play with a new identity and to more clearly have a retreat away from our daily lives.
This summer challenged me to love others–all others. Most of my campers were a delight, but there was one that was very difficult. He chose the name Cruz (cross), telling me that he was Christian. He also kicked a wall into our building, openly cursed me out daily, punched a classmate, and refused to respect me because I was a woman and “women shouldn’t be in charge.”
I’ve had students like this before and learned to tolerate them and work with them, but Cruz was different because he wore a giant cross every day and often announced that he was Christian. His very name reminded me of the faith that I try to live and also made me rage with frustration as I looked at the contradictions of this student using profanity and His name in the same breath.
So, not sure what else to do, I prayed for this student. I prayed for my own patience, that I would be able to get out of God’s way, and to lead my classes in a way where all students could grow. I prayed for his health, and that he would feel safe and supported by all the adults he met there. On the surface, not much changed. Every class I had with Cruz, I had to take deep breaths and write documentation reports for my supervisor.
What did change, however, was my attitude. I could look at that giant cross, and be at peace knowing how I had to act. I learned to not flinch or blink at profanity or disrespect, but to keep going and to treasure the students who were responsive. Toward the end of the session, Cruz and I had a chance to talk when I was not asking him to stop doing something. I was touched at how he is fighting and journeying, if only in his own way. Months later, I wonder where he is and what memories he holds of camp.
So, as I return to my “real” life, Cruz has stuck with me. Who else is in need of prayer and is fighting battles that we cannot begin to comprehend? Who is God challenging you to love?