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Topic: Insulted (11/01/04)
TITLE: Matthew 5 by the Pool House Door
By Melanie Mock
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Camp quiet hour had just started, and I was already bored, hot, and sweaty. Betty and the other counselors were making an early escape to the pool, leaving the cabins—and the campers—unattended. We were supposed to be meditating, writing in our journals, and praying. But this was camp, I thought, not Sunday school or Vacation Bible School. Camp was supposed to be fun, not a tedious recitation of and reflection on the Bible stories I already knew.
Earlier that day, our camp pastor had challenged us to think during quiet time about Matthew 5, about being the salt and the light of the world. “Be salt and light to others,” he reminded us. I heard this: “yada yada yada.” During his sermon, I had attended more to the bob of the pastor’s remarkable Adam’s Apple than to his message. As for quiet hour, then, I had little on which to mediate, beyond the heat and Betty’s premature exodus to the pool.
For several days already, I had been using quiet hours to torment younger campers: stealing into their bunks, tackling them while they napped. A few times, I pranked the counselors as well, stirring their suitcases, hiding their sleeping bags, singing sophomoric chants about “K-I-S-S-I-N-G.” The counselors responded to my tricks with tight grins and forced laughs, sure signs—I was positive—that they really, really liked me.
By the camp’s fourth day, though, my antic-stores were exhausted. Rather than linger in the cabin or bother my sleeping peers, I decided to join Betty and the other counselors for a pre-swim swim. Grabbing my towel and suit, I ran up the gravel path to the pool, congratulating myself for my quick thinking: I would be the first one to the diving board; I would be the first camper in the deep end.
And then, just before turning into the girl’s dressing room, I heard Betty talking.
“That Melanie is driving me nuts,” she said.
“No kidding,” said Judy, the counselor for Meadowlark girls. “She won’t ever shut up, and she’s so rude. I really don’t envy you for having her in your cabin.”
“Huh. I don’t know what they were thinking when they put her with me,” Betty sighed. “She’s ruining the whole camp. I really hate her.”
I stood outside the pool house, tracking Betty’s and Judy’s voices as they shifted poolside. Their conversation moved to other topics, to the cute guy counselors and to their post-summer plans. When the camp bell finally tolled to announce the end of quiet hour, I turned back towards the cabin, pushing my way through the waves of boys and girls now running up the path towards the pool.
At the cabin, I slammed the screen door shut behind me, then climbed into my bunk and stared out at the meadow and scrub trees. I rehearsed Betty’s words over and over again, unable to contend with Betty’s admission of ill-will. The shouts of kids playing at the pool cut through the Kansas wind, but I found myself sobered into quiet mediation: about what it means to be salt, and what it means to be light, in an unforgiving world.