I was once asked if I had ever been camping. I have, a couple of times.
When I was young, my family camped our way from Minnesota to Washington State for my cousin’s wedding. We were quite the caravan, made up of our family station wagon, my grandparents car pulling a small pop up camper, and my aunt’s car.
My aunt’s car was the place to be. She was fun. She encouraged questions and conversation. She gave me my very first wrist watch on that trip – a classic Mickey Mouse watch. She listened to me, answered every question, and made me feel welcome in her car. Thanks, Aunt Mavis!
I was enchanted by each new experience. We stopped at the famous Wall Drug Store in Wall, South Dakota. I had never seen a “tourist trap” before, and I decided I quite liked them. We drove through the Black Hills and saw Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial, which was difficult for me to make out, as it was in early construction phase. We drove through the Badlands, which rendered me speechless.
But it was the views travelling through Grand Tetons National Park, and the Rocky Mountains, that really made my heart beat fast. I could not comprehend how there was still snow in the month of June. Who could have predicted that the little midwestern farm girl would eventually settle next to the Canadian Rockies, and look at them every day from her window? The view still takes my breath away.
As a young couple with a 3 year old, we joined my husbands parents on a camping trip to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Their fifth wheel was very comfortable. There was the incident of the burning marshmallow that our daughter flung off her roasting stick onto the awning of the fifth-wheel, narrowly missing her grandfather’s head. But hey – what’s a camping trip without a near-death experience?
Also, maybe don’t let a 3 year old roast her own marshmallow? Lesson learned.
Many would argue that this particular trip wasn’t camping, it was “glamping”. Apparently, unless I had put up a complicated tent in the pouring rain, caught my own rabbit or fish and cooked it over an open fire, which, by the way, I had started with a couple of sticks, also in the rain, I had never been camping.
Whatever. I don’t do sleeping bags on the ground. 0 out of 10 — do not recommend.
But hey, if that’s your jam, you do you, baby. There is space enough in this world for all of us to pursue our camping dreams, whatever they may or may not include.
The idea of camps also applies to differences in thought and paradigms. “I’m in this camp”, or” I am definitely not in that camp”, defines our boundaries. What we do and don’t like. What we do and don’t accept, believe in, practice.
My focus these days is on healing of all kinds. Everyone has an opinion on how healing should best take place. That’s ok, because there are so many different ways we can be hurt. There needs to be more than one way to heal. Unless I believe my way is the only way for everyone. That’s how the fight starts.
When I assume I know best how you should heal, I put you and your pain and brokenness and struggle in a box. If there is something about you or your story that doesn’t fit in my box, I expect you to deny that in order to receive my brand of healing. That’s when you need to run. Run fast, run far.
Here’s the truth: I don’t know how you need to be healed. I can only share the story of my journey towards healing, which is still unfolding, because, well, I’m not dead yet, and this is a lifelong journey. You will probably relate to a lot of it. My story will likely help you move forward in your own story. And while we all need to find that place of healing for ourselves, we don’t have to do it alone. It’s one of those things that is SO much better together.
Indulge me in an allegory.
There is a large, lovely campground with all the best amenities and full service hookups. It even has WIFI. I’ve spent a lot of time there. I liked it there. The rules were clear.
“Here’s the campground handbook — just do everything exactly as instructed and everything will be fine. No, we aren’t taking suggestions on how to do things differently, more efficiently, or more justly. Thanks anyway. Read the book. Our way is best.”
Many people are satisfied with that. But some of us have been wounded as a result of their unwillingness to consider a different way to do things. As a matter of fact, my leg got broken. The person who broke it didn’t mean to. Of course I forgave them. It was accidental. There was no malicious intent whatsoever.
“OK. Good. We are glad you chose to forgive.” stated the campground leadership committee. “Now we can move forward and leave all this unpleasantness behind.”
Except my leg is still broken. It hurts — A LOT. The pain is making me lash out at people who come by asking me to go for a walk, or come over to their campsite and join them for Smores. “Can’t you see my leg is broken? I cannot walk. At all. What is wrong with you that you expect me to ignore my broken leg??!”
“But you forgave.”
BUT I’M STILL BROKEN.
They are confused and dismayed, wondering if I only think I forgave, but didn’t really? Maybe I didn’t say the right words? They decide to give me some space until I am more reasonable and pleasant again.
What I need is a strong person motivated by kindness and compassion to pick me up and carry me to someone who can help me. That person appeared and told me about about a refugee campsite. It didn’t have all the fancy extras, and it was a long walk, but this person could take me there for help.
Because, in the refugee campground, there is a healer. The healer knows how to set broken bones so they will heal straight and strong. My person carries me to the healer, and advocates on my behalf for treatment that will lead to healing. I would be welcomed, validated, broken bone set, fed, and given a safe space to recover until I was ready to go back to my regular activities. My person picked me up and we began the long walk.
I saw wounded people along the way who had tired of the journey to the healer. They had given up hope. They simply started a campfire where they dropped from exhaustion. They built a shelter out of whatever they could find. Whenever I came upon these makeshift camps, I asked them to join me. I was going to the healer. They could come along.
“I used to believe in a healer. Now I think it’s just a story concocted by weaklings who need to explain why they are so messed up. I can manage just fine on my own. Take off and leave me alone.”
I saw a person in dirty torn clothing, bearing scars from deep cuts, as well as fresh bruises and scratches. They appeared to be wandering aimlessly, yet they were on high alert, constantly scanning their environment for threats.
“Those wounds look bad, friend. That one on your back is infected,” I say with concern.
“I can’t reach it to clean it. So it’s a little infected? Who cares? It’s just going to make me tougher, better able to survive in the wild. I can build a shelter out of garbage other people throw away. I can make a meal out of things you wouldn’t even consider actual food!”
“But don’t you want something better than to simply survive?” I asked. “My person is carrying me to the healer. Come with us. The healer can clean the wounds you can’t reach. Your hurts will be treated and bandaged. You will be given actual nourishment from good food, and protection from the elements with a safe warm place to rest.”
“I’m a survivalist. It’s just who I am. Nothing is going to change that. You can’t change me. You can’t make me be like you. You’re wasting your time. If it’s so important to you to get to some fairytale healer, get going already!”
We eventually arrive at the healer’s camp. My person was right. There was a soft, warm. sheltered place to rest. The healer was skilled at setting my broken bone. I was given delicious, nutritious food to build my strength. “Why didn’t I know about this place?” I questioned. “How do people lose hope to the point where they end their journey before they get here? Everyone needs to know that this place is real!”
As I slept, I dreamed of a place that combined the loveliness and amenities of the large campground with the care, compassion, and healing provided by the refugee campsite. It was peopled with individuals who value authentic relationships. There is a place for those harmed at the hands of injustice to find peace through justice and unity. There is a place of healing for those who have wounds that can’t be ignored. There are places for nourishment, celebration, and rest. The wholistic beauty brought tears to my eyes.
I shared my dream with my person and the healer. We journeyed back to the large campground, sharing our vision with those on the way. At the large campground, the leadership committee recognized the great potential of just such an encampment. We all worked together to make it a reality. No one who fell in between were ignored or left behind. All were welcome. All were included. Everyone found a home.
It’s a lovely fairytale. One that won’t come true on this side of heaven. But we can try. We can challenge injustice. We can shelter the homeless. We can treat the wounded in body, and in spirit. We can love one another. We can choose unity over division and dissention.
I choose to replace the “we” with “I”. Because in the allegory, I had the broken leg. I found healing, thanks to someone who knew where to take me, and who was willing to put their plans aside to meet my urgent need.
Who are you in the allegory? Do you use your resources to help others find healing? Are you on the committee that resists change? Have you fallen along the wayside, devoid of hope?
I know you are tired. I know you hurt. Take my hand. Let’s take one more step, together, closer to the Healer.