Over the past few weeks I have had a heightened awareness of the value of friends. It all started on the 29th of January. As the day drew to a close, I logged in to the evil Social Empire, Facebook (this is a Stars Wars reference and a joke). There I found 98 “Happy Birthday” messages of some sort. Now I know that number is small compared to the number of “friends” many people have on FB and the number wasn’t really what was so significant to me. What was significant were the memories that came flooding back to me as I looked at the names of the people who posted. Some of them were just acquaintances, but the vast majority of those well-wishers had impacted my life in some way and from that point on I was to be a different person. I am the man I am today because of, first, my Savior, Jesus Christ, and second, the people who contributed so dearly to my life. I owe them a tremendous debt.
My friends come from different times, like high school and college. Some are currently in my life, like my friendships from church. But if I was forced to label one group of people as the most influential, it would have to be the ones I met at camp. There are many things about camp friends that make them so unique and it would take more than a blog post to talk about them all. I believe the most important attribute of a camp friendship is the unconditional love and acceptance that is available to each person. Camp is the best environment for children and young adults to comfortably be who they really are or want to be. Counselors boost camper confidence by pouring affirmation and acceptance into their minds. Campers catch this contagious spirit and join in the cheering and positive feedback. It is almost impossible to leave camp without a better sense of self-worth and the courage to be yourself; the person God intended for you to be. I believe camp is the best place to find the best you.
There are two scriptures that come to mind when I think about the value of friends. I think these verses aren’t just about the friend we have in Jesus, but are also speaking about earthly friends.The first is Proverbs 17:17 which says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” The second is also in Proverbs, and just in the next chapter, verse 24, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Real friends bring out the best in you, want the best for you, love you no matter what, and will stand by you at all times.
Many of you still keep in touch with the friends you made at camp over the years and I know they rank at or near the top of your list. Leave a comment and tell me what you think is so special about your camp friendships. In the meantime, enjoy this throwback song from James Taylor. I don’t think I could say it much better…