Friday, January 22, 2016

The News from Magruder 1/17-23

The Pacific Northwest has been so cliche this week, with drizzly showers nearly every day. There has been a mix of cooler days and warmer days, and mid-way through the week we had pretty strong winds. At night, these winds gust and the bigger water droplets slam against the window panes. The wind howls down the chimneys, and you occasionally get the feeling something is surrounding the house, trying to get inside.

The office was closed Monday for the MLK holiday. We typically work on many of the Monday national holidays, because people tend to come to camp on their time off, but the camp was empty in this particular case so the office was too. I'm one who feels its important to honor whatever reason causes a pause from the normal routine whether it be anything from a sporting event to Sabbath to a national holiday. I've seen people encounter the holiday in many ways, too often, though, with indifference or even straight up hostility.

King, to me, is one of our modern day saints. Regardless of your views on civil rights and race in general, King carried out his work with a commitment to peacefulness and integrity. He is a model of how to stand up for what you believe in. It's tough to slander his work unless you just disagree with racial equality or think more militant action should have been taken. Still, I wonder how we should celebrate or honor this holiday. What is the protocol on a day like today? What are some actions, some rituals we can make an annual thing? This is still a young holiday compared to many, but one that shouldn't get too far from our conscience these days. There's a lot we should be listening for from MLK in our daily life.

I think about the moments at camp when we have had a good mix of colors and backgrounds. When there has been black and white, rich and poor. There were moments in these camps of friction, when cultures didn't understand each other perfectly. It's funny how a word or an action with one group of people can mean something totally different to another group of people. I've also seen moments of understanding, where everyone was able to leave their past and future out for a time and be in the present moment and understand we are all in the same place at the same time and need basically the same things. I knew it would get more complicated again, but for that brief period of time everyone had a similar understanding.

These are the moments that make the slide shows--the picture of the black and white kids, arms over each other's shoulders, huge grins. We want these pictures, because it's an image of what we hope for ourselves--it's how we want people to see us. Sometimes, though, it's hard to know what to do to get those pictures to happen. Sometimes it can be a challenge to even find ourselves in the same room.

When I walk the grounds at Camp Magruder, I often think about all the feet that have passed over this ground. At the edge of Lake Smith there are plank roads from the old highway. When the basketball court was dug, there were remains of a shipwreck. No doubt, natives walked this ground for thousands of years before a white person laid eyes on it. How much different does it look now than it did 100 years ago? 500 years ago? 5,000 years ago? What will it look like 100 years from now? 500? 5,000? Who will the people be then? What will they do the third Monday or January?

One thing that definitely looks different is the beach. The ocean has continued to chip away at the sand, carving a taller and taller wall at the forest line. Last week it was anywhere from 5-8 feet tall. Now it is anywhere from 8 to 12 feet high. This cutting away of the sand has caused a few sand avalanches, taking out beach grass and even some of the trees. It feels like we are in a time of great change, but the truth is that it's always changing, we just don't always notice until some of the larger structures begin to fall. Things get whittled away, then something big must fall. Soon, something new will start building from the ground.

As I reflect on a week often spent indoors, preparing for the future--I find myself reflecting on the past. Thinking about MLK and his legacy, where we are at now with civil rights. I am sorry he was killed. For that matter, I'm sorry thinking of so many activists being killed, of Jesus' death. I think also, though, of those times that must have been absolutely thrilling, walking with these great leaders, feeling something in the air, feeling something new and important was on the way. What would it have felt like to travel with King from Atlanta to Selma, to cross the bridge? What would have felt like to be there with him in Memphis at the sanitation workers' strike--to hear him speak at the church? What would it have felt like to walk the roads outside of Jerusalem with Christ, people coming in crowds to be healed, to hear the man speak? Ideally, I think about a week of camp like this--this time we come together peacefully and live this accelerated feeling life, this life where you can see things happening, see people changing in front of you. I feel so different about so many things because of times I spent at the table with people who weren't like me, knowing them better, hearing their stories. It made me want more of that. I made me want to stand up for them, it made me want to be better.

I wonder what new and important things are coming to our institutions. I wonder what ways the things we currently know will begin to disappear before our eyes as new generations go farther down a path. I wonder what will be built in their place. I wonder what will endure. I hope that what we do here is important enough to endure. I hope we do something that future generations find necessary. I hope that we are able to take more pictures full of kids of all colors and backgrounds standing together smiling. I hope we make a place where that sort of thing is easy to come by. I'm not quite sure what that answer is, for now it seems like it will continue to be complicated and elusive at times. But, I plan to keep searching from it. Maybe those saints who came before us can continue to teach us. Maybe some of us will do good enough to be saints one day.

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