Any one of you who have children, or even know a child , or still are one, have probably seen the movie “Frozen”. If not, my grandchildren will be happy to watch it with you. There is ascene where, Olaf, a talking snowman (I know, really!), sees some unexplainable behavior by another Disney character (a princess, of course). With wide eyes, and his mouth turned at an unreal angle to the side of his face (snow can really bend, obviously) he says to a goofyreindeer (at least the reindeer doesn’t speak):
“She’s Ka-raaaay -Zeeeee!”
Well, I am sure many people think I am a good bit Ka-raaaay-Zee myself for taking these outdoor trips. Okay, the bad puns and word plays do not help my case for sanity either. Not only do these trips require hours and hours in the wilderness with unpredictable weather conditions, changing rivers, and kids, but hours of planning, gathering money and permission slips, dealing with additions and cancellations, finding drivers, planning meals, shopping, cooking, chiggers, ticks, scrapes, bruises, and other irritations. And kids.
At a meeting a couple of weeks ago with a committee about outdoor education, Ray Higgins told the consultants and members that I was taking a group of high schoolers to the Eleven Point River to canoe. Then he said:
“How many people really want to spend three days in the wilderness with a bunch of teenagers?”
Hmmm, I never really thought of that. At that moment, the lightbulb came on. After years and years of outdoor trips, I have never really told anyone why I do these things. I guess I should.
Maybe I am crazy.
But I do all of this not because I love kids, which I do, but because I love what kids can become. And I find the outdoors to be a different environment than the classroom or the comforts of home. I never know what might happen.
Maybe the kids will have fun.
Maybe they will remember the trip for a long time.
Maybe a kid will go only because his friends are going.
Maybe a kid will relax for a while. To quote a current senior “Outdoor Club trips at JA are the only place where I can go and be myself, and not be graded or judged”.
Maybe there will be a few moments of panic when we drive out of cell coverage, then a few minutes later total acceptance of their fate.
Maybe there will be that moment of glee when service is returned, followed by the realization that they real did not miss anything.
Maybe a small guy will extend a hand to a big guy, helping him over a rock ledge or crossing a fast running creek, and both will realize, for a moment, that it does not matter who you are, you are needed.
Maybe those same guys will learn that extending that hand and accepting that hand both have value, as well as letting go of that hand and moving independently down your own path.
Maybe a guy will realize that girls are special, and different, but can do some things just as well, if not better, than guys can.
Maybe the girl who fixes her makeup, her hair and her clothing between every class period at school will look into a reflecting pool and see no make-up except dirt smudges, frizzy and sweaty hair, and torn and soiled clothing, and realize that she, at that moment, is a beautiful as she has ever been, but discover also that outer beauty does not really matter, anyway.
Maybe a shy, timid, terrified girl will stand on a ledge on a 45 foot cliff overlooking freezing water, and hear nothing but encouragement from the canoes below.
Maybe she will take that one step, falling freely through the air into the water, then emerging to cheers, and know that she is accepted, and that she can face and conquer any challenge, even if it involves spiders. Well, maybe any challenge except spiders.
Maybe a young man will choose a cold mountain stream instead of alcohol as his method of releasing stress.
Maybe a confused teen will choose to emulate Ray Higgins or Sarah Ryburn Mealer, rather than Ray Rice or Kim Kardashian.
Maybe new friendships will form with people this youngster would have never met, and they will share each others ideas on faith, and their different viewpoints will strengthen both.
Maybe the most stressful thing on this trip might be the challenge of creating the perfect ‘smore, only to have sheer perfection disappear in a huge flame, and with that the realization that success can come and go in a moment.
Maybe a young college graduate will come by, flop down in a desk and tell me that because of a fireside devotion when he was a tenth grader, his life changed forever and he will be attending seminary in the fall.
Maybe a dad, seeking a way to connect with his teenaged daughter, will offer to drive. On the trip he will discover that his precious daughter, the love of his life, is now a whole person, strong and confident, and a new bond will form.
Maybe that bond will be solidified over ice cream on the way home.
Maybe a young teenager will grow to be a dad, and remembering those days of old, will
introduce his children to the grandeur of the wilderness.
Maybe, deep within a cave, a youngster will look back at the light pouring through the tiny
opening of the cave, and be reminded of an open tomb, and forgiveness.
Maybe I will be sitting around a campfire, listening to the chatter of young people, and realize that these people will run the world while my grandchildren are young, and I will feel secure.
Maybe, a thin young woman will sit on a rock at the top of a mountain watching the sun set over the Blue Ridge Mountains, The mist from the mountains will turn gold as the light filters over the landscape. And for just a brief moment, maybe this courageous young lady will forget the struggle of chemotherapy, and look in awe at the the beauty of God, and know that all will be okay.
Maybe, maybe, maybe…
The secret here, my friends, is that there are no “maybes” on this list. All of these maybes have taken place, some many many times. And the hope that there will be one more maybe is what will keep me going, serving youth and serving God.
Or, maybe I’m just Ka-raaaaay-Zee.
Ka-raaaaay-Zee over the wonder of God’s Universe.
Ka-raaaaay-Zee about the amazing potential of our awesome teenagers.
Ka-raaaaay-Zee about the goodness and Glory of God.
Ka-raaaaay-Zee about the gift of his Son.
Thanks for reading. Come join me on a trip some time.