The sun has visited a little more often this week on the Oregon coast, creating some fairly warm days by comparison to what we’ve been getting. While Portland and the rest of the valley has been getting temperatures in the 100s, we’ve barely seen the 80s. I’ve gotten enough sun this week to get the light burns that will turn to brown over the next few days, making me feel when I look in the mirror that I have actually experienced the summer season. Still, I have donned a sweatshirt or at least long sleeves by the end of most days. What a place to live.
This week Magruder welcomed Camp to Belong, a week-long camp that reunites siblings who have been separated in the foster care system. A lot of these kids saw their sibling more during this week of camp than they will the rest of the year combined. These kids have been through more chaos in 10 years than I have in close to 40. Working with populations like this really change your perspective on the world. It doesn’t necessarily make it more positive or negative (though it certainly can do either). I think it’s like any kind of travel, any kind of newness–it shows you a different side of this varied world. It shows you a different part of yourself you might not have known.
This camp has an impressive array of programming. They crank up electronic music at the end of meals, and everyone jumps up and does a dance routine. They had a pirate scavenger hunt to start the week. On Wednesday, they shipped in a bunch of blow up games and transformed the Camp Magruder into a carnival. Under the cool, evening air, I watched kids go through obstacles course, jump in bouncy houses, and run against a bungie cord. I saw brothers and sisters genuinely enjoying each others’ company. They watched out for each other, they played together, they teased, they hugged, they smiled a lot. They knew what this week was, what it meant. I thought about the gift I was taking a small part in here. It was one of those moments when time slows a bit and you watch it like a scene in a movie. The colors are sharper, the kind and loving actions are easier to notice. I was smiling at nothing. I was smiling at everything.
Camp to Belong left on Friday, and we spent several hours cleaning cabins for our next group, the Fourth of July family camp. Very quickly there was a gear shift to a different type of group, a different type of programming. This is camp life. You see many guests from many places with varying needs, searching for so many different things. There were several families with groups of kids. I feel like I’m pretty good at relating with nearly any age, but I just have a natural magnetism with girls between 5 and 10. I have no idea why. An adorable group of girls at this camp, decided they wanted to call me “Frank,” instead of my actual name. So, every corner I turned, I heard a bunch of 6 year olds saying, “Hey Frank!”
I had my first Fourth of July in Oregon with a bunch of my co-workers. We went out to the beach and found Jay, the camp’s Executive Chef with his family next to a bonfire. There was smoke all around and fireworks erupting in every direction. We made s’mores. I spent most of the evening, relishing my chance to be still, hypnotized by the fire, the warm, the cool sand on my legs, the sparkling lights erupting above. What a time just to take in this world I’ve found myself in, these new friends, the fire, the lights, the laughter, the warm and the cool touching me all at once.
The last night of the Fourth of July camp, our Director, Steve, arranged for a scenic train ride along the coast. An historic steam train runs tourist trips right by the camp regularly. We hear the steam whistle throughout the day. On this night, we walked to the road, and the train picked us up. The open air train seemed like the perfect place to be as the sun drifted below the treeline, on a warm afternoon. The Resource Staff found themselves in a selfie competition, and I found myself on bench with Cali and Louisa. They climbed on me, messed with my hair, and asked me about most of what we saw on the train.
What a whirlwind of activities and people. I certainly didn’t have these nostalgic moments the whole week. I’m still figuring out all the things that need to happen for a week of camp to run smoothly. There are definitely still some bumps in the road, I’m hoping to smooth out. There are moments where I feel like I’m just working on producing a schedule that will never end. But then, I think about the kids who got to be with a brother or sister they’ve hardly been able to know. I think about how our staff will see this and be changed by it, how this may inspire them to go out in the world and do something powerful with their lives. I hope deeply that I’m noticing blessings in my privileged life much more than I’m listing complaints.
Out on the train with this group of people, very few of whom I knew a month ago, I felt this strong sense of community and enjoyment. I looked up into the trees, out onto the beautiful water. I breathed in deep. This is my home now. I get to live something like this every day. There was this feeling inside that it must be shared. It is not mine to keep. There are many more than me who need it. I breathed it in, hoping the exhale would spread all over to anyone needing fresh air.