This summer I volunteered at Camp Heritage, one of the seven United Youth Camps offered throughout the year across the United States.
It had been 12 years since I last stepped foot in the Laurel Highlands of western Pennsylvania at Heritage Reservation. Both everything and nothing had changed.
The more things change...
The concept of the camp was still the same: For one week of camping in the wilderness, create "the Zone"—an atmosphere of infectious positivity, replete with encouragement, inclusiveness and godliness, and devoid of negativity, backbiting and divisiveness. As a staff member, carry the responsibility of caring and providing guidance for the campers who file through your activity or your campsite. As a camper, bring a positive attitude and a willingness to engage in the Zone.
Some physical aspects were also still the same:
- The site is still huge and easy to get lost in.
- You're still surrounded by wild animals and the beauty of God's creation.
- And, yes, the tents are still known to leak!
Even some faces were the same: Roughly a half dozen other staff members had served with me 12 years ago. I had also met a handful of other staff members and campers prior to camp through other activities.
Several activities had changed, however. And I had approximately 175 campers and staff members to get to know. In one week.
Since I would be mentoring and interacting daily with campers ranging in age from 12 to 19, I decided to make my Bible study for the week focus on a book of wisdom.
Each time I read the book of Proverbs, I come away with something new. It's not just a book of random musings with little food for thought. Rather, the more I study it, the more I find valuable, timeless advice for individuals of all ages. I can safely say I haven't yet gleaned everything I can out of the book jam-packed with excellent advice from King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived.
But one proverb in particular jumped out at me during my study: "A man who has friends must himself be friendly" (Proverbs 18:24 Proverbs 18:24A man that has friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.
American King James Version×).
An exercise in friendliness
Obviously this principle applies to women as well as men, and I took it to heart for the week. Beginning with the first church service, I began introducing myself to people I'd never met before. Not exactly an easy task for an introvert like me! But it paid off.
Within a couple days, I began to feel like a natural and welcome addition to the group. The biggest compliment I received was when a young lady came to my activity station one evening, seeking me out for a chat. A friendship was born—one that I hope will last for years to come.
As the week continued, I learned more names and was thrilled when greeted with a cheery "Hello, Mrs. Pennington!" to be able to reply, "Good morning, Brittany! How's the ankle today?"
Laying a foundation
Did these interactions immediately create cemented-in-stone, deeper-than-deep, epiphany-creating, unshakable friendships? No, of course not. But the foundations are there, providing opportunity for greater, deeper friendships to develop naturally in time. As one of my friends puts it, "It's an investment in eternity."
After all, the rest of the proverb reveals, "but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." Those kinds of friendships take time and energy to develop. And they're well worth the effort, no matter how or where a friendship begins. VT