Dear Ellie, On Your Second Day of Summer Camp

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You almost didn’t say anything.

(And I wondered if maybe you’ll be sorry you did.)

summer camp mess hallAnd though Sheri and I both tried to help, we knew it’d just have to be experienced: all things “bad” become good in time when you choose to see the good in them. That’s the “lesson.” But I don’t know if it’s time for it yet, for you. How bad is it being there without a friend? And is it made worse by the fact that you’re so quiet and prefer to follow rather than lead? I’m figuring so, while praying you’ll find a friend.

But I’m also hoping, while I sit with you quietly, you’ll remember to assert yourself, despite the distractions. I’m wishing with all my heart for you to see above the situation and recognize the opportunity to be your true self, the one who since the very first was more interested in making others happy than in her own pursuits.

No one believes that or knows that’s who you are, but so what? They could know you, if you let them. You might find someone interested in helping others too rather than helping themselves to whatever fun they can find. It isn’t your fault there are so few people like you, even at a Christian day camp. But that doesn’t matter. Be yourself and others will love you for it.

And what I’d like to tell you, if I could, is to go ahead and cry if it hurts, but keep your eyes open just enough not to miss the beauty and benefit of struggling with feeling alone. It hurts, regardless, but it’ll be useful.

That feeling of being alone matters. Someday you’ll know why you have to experience it. You may meet someone who knows something about that feeling too and you’ll relate to them. You’ll know of that secret knowledge you share. You might write about it without knowing where it’ll lead, and it may require the bravery you’ll have learned from this raw memory you find in your past.

You may remember how it felt to be there when you have a daughter.

God does sit up there and laugh, I think. He sees the joke of it all, that it’s all good and always well in the end beyond where we can even consider. I used to think that was crazy before I went to summer camp. But then I struggled there to find a friend just like you and I learned there that nothing surprises or saddens God because he already knows all the skits’ punchlines.

canoeingIt was at a camp where I felt alone that I was finally receptive enough to feel his love. It didn’t happen right way, but as I looked back I knew he’d been there. And I realized there’s no way we can lose in life. Losing isn’t even an option when we take God at his word.

However alone we feel, there’s only a win forever and ever and ever because he’s there, he cares, and he already gave and suffered everything for us. The pain we experience breeds separation and sin and we can forget. But the lie in that pain is no more real than the lie that you’re alone. There’s no such thing as alone, whether you choose to believe that or not. Your choice makes either one real to you. But it doesn’t change reality.

And you can choose to deny the lies to see that choice as evidence of love greater than our limited sight can explain. That’s the choice.

That we have a choice at all is all the proof I need. And if others don’t see it yet, doesn’t that mean I have a job to do?

So go and live and experience what you want, what you choose to. Don’t get distracted. Help someone else there find someone interested in them today–you. And however long that takes, I pledge to hug and listen and wait with you for the day we get to see together what can grow from summer camp blues.

I love you, Sweets. Always.

Dad

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