Sometimes, I can be a really nostalgic person. I think the side of me that loves telling stories is that person. But I love remembering the past not to get stuck there but to help understand the present. Suffice to say, I spent a week last week helping out at a camp I had worked at nearly a dozen years ago doing the exact job I’d first held there, the P.U.F., or Program Utilities Facilitator. It’s essentially the camp gopher or could be described as the camp caretaker. It’s the behind-the-scenes backbone of camp jobs schlepping water and food where they need to go, anticipating problems and solving them before they ever became problems. And it’s just something I’m really good at doing. I’m the kind of person that if I could change the whole world without anybody knowing I was the one to change it, I’d jump at that chance.
To step back into that role was both a stroll down Memory Lane and a reminder of who I am and who I’ve always wanted to be. A friend described it comparing it to moving into a new house but not before driving by an old house you’d lived in long ago first. There was the sense that I’d crossed both figurative and literal oceans since having last been there. The swim was absolutely exhausting but those who’d only dipped their feet in the water couldn’t see how anybody could view the swim as anything but fun. I felt at times too old, incapable of describing how vast and dangerous and graceful the ocean really is to those who are yet to really encounter it. That’s not to make their experience thus far sound immature. They were to me incredible, loving people with so much to offer the camp – a lot more than maybe I did all those years ago. A few of them carried a wisdom about them, perhaps crossing a few oceans a time or two themselves, even teaching and challenging me in powerfully positive ways, and yet, I felt a little like I’d changed in such a profound manner in ten years time so as to almost be silenced or quieted in their presence. Does a stroll down Memory Lane, even if it leaves you with plenty you want to say, not also leave you somehow humbled and voiceless if only for a moment?
In a way, I felt followed. I’m not entirely sure what I mean by that. That I was stepping into the role of a leader, perhaps? On some level, yes, because I chose to step up when that was needed, but I don’t think I mean “followed” in terms of being trusted or believed in. I think I mean something more along the lines of people chasing after me in a loving or caring way, to make sure I felt welcome, really welcome: followers leading, which are the best kind of followers. Whatever you want to call sacred, I think that kind of serving spirit really gets to the core of what we all need to be fulfilled. And in that sense, the week was packed with plenty of genuine conversation, real talks so to speak: in the seat of a little red truck, on a canoe sitting backwards and facing one another, in the beds of an infirmary, rocking back-and-forth on a pontoon boat, or along a dark trail in the middle of the woods.
Somewhere along that trail, I remembered the words I’d heard earlier in the week from the director of the camp who paraphrased someone else – “If you want to know where you’re going, look down at your feet to see what direction they’re moving in. If you don’t like where they’re leading you, turn around.” Sometimes, my feet just turn me in circles, but maybe sometimes we need to go back to where we’ve been to be reminded why we go where we go.
So, my feet have now taken me on to St. Louis, and I’m finally feeling ready to break out in a sprint forward.