Two Camp Shirts

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Friday morning, 7am. We’ve one more day of camp left, our time in Michigan, moments with WOW Campers measured in mere hours. Around me, down stairs, the girls in the house are beginning to move, to prepare for their last day with little campers. The sky, peering brightly through the thin curtains lining the window, glows pale blue, cheerily welcoming the day.

I’ve a list next to me, initials of the nine high school girls around me scrawled in red ink on a miniature note pad. A nightly ritual, I sit in the near-dark, the room illuminated in soft yellow, and go around the room: When are you getting up? What time am I waking you up? I’m the only one with a phone, the leader in the room, and this is my job. Now, at 7am, they’ve all been awoken but one. Face buried in blue sleeping bag across the room from my own bed, she breathes evenly as the day gains momentum around us.

Slipping off the thick mattress, I step down the stairs, each sandy wooden step creaking loudly. The bathroom is warm, the air heavy with shower steam and the smell of toothpaste. Water has pooled on the counter, and girls lean cautiously over the surface, careful not to drop makeup, clothes in the stagnant counter puddles. Clustered in small groups in front of the dual mirrors, I greet the gathered girls before I lean close to the reflective surface, my own eyes wide in the face of focused mascara application.

In the upstairs bedroom once more, I wake the last sleeper, return to my own suitcase as she sleepily shuffles through her own bag. Pushing sweatpants, jeans aside, I grasp the corner of the royal blue camp shirt I’ve been wearing since Monday. Pulling the ruffled shirt from under the pile, the July morning sun reveals a multitude of wrinkles and two faint stains in the rumpled blue cotton. I hesitate as two girls creak up the stairs, swishing into the room to pull sweatshirts over their own blue camp shirts, before stomping down the stairs once again, on their way to breakfast.

Not a minute later, the schoolhouse bell rings, signaling 7:30am and breakfast. Leaving the mussed shirt on my unmade bed, I pull a sweatshirt on, following the last of the girls down the stairs, out the backdoor, to the schoolhouse.

Inside, it smells like bacon and burnt toast, and the line stretches to the screen door that’s just slammed shut behind me. I slip between two high school boys, their hair hidden under hoodies pulled haphazardly over sleepy brows, and settle onto the worn couch under the window; I’ll wait for the line to subside.

A hint of fresh blue cotton peeking from inside a bin next to the couch catches my eye, and I stand to investigate. Pushing the half-closed lid aside, I find a small collection of brand new camp shirts, along with two sharpies, a red crayon, and several unused lanyards, the week’s schedule still dangling from their ends. Pulling a shirt from the stack, it’s a pleasant surprise to find it’s my size.

Bacon, a bagel, and an hour later, I’m standing at the camp check-in table, the sun’s hot on the shoulders of the brand-new camp t-shirt. I’ve permission to take the shirt, am not the only one who’s done so, but I feel vaguely selfish, as if I’ve taken a thing that someone else might have enjoyed more, might have needed more.

But it’s Friday and we’ve facepaint, music, and the waterslide. We’ve schedules to maintain and decisions to make and cleaning, preparing to do before the evening pig roast which will end our night, our week. Between cleaning the grounds- picking sticky popsicle wrappers off the grass- and organizing the sound podium, I hear they’re giving the extra shirts away tonight. I’ll just throw them into the group of kids, the local director says, shrugging happily at the idea of their sure excitement.

I stop, glance down at the still-clean shirt I’m wearing. I could change, I could give it to her, to be given away. I think about it. I picture a child proudly wearing the brilliant blue shirt, a memory of our wonderful week of camp. But I don’t change, don’t think about it, and soon enough, it’s 10pm and the pig roast is over and I’ve changed into the tank top, sweatpants that have been my evening uniform these seven days, two blue camp shirts laying discarded in the chaotic pile on my bed. I’ll give one to my sisters, I tell myself, to placate my still-whispering conscience.

But a midnight Facebook check reveals a red flag on my home screen, a message from a school friend, recently met, easily befriended.

It looks like you’re at camp, she says, in response to pictures freshly posted. She tells me about her sister, obsessed with Toy Story. Is there any chance that I can get her one? She asks, humble. Hopeful.

And I can’t just say coincidence, because this feels like sovereignty and grace and something that I can trust. Because God is gracious and kind and things like this, they make Him smile.

~Natalia

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  1. Trackback: She Won’t | Lead Me Where

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