Head Coach: When I grow up I want to be a kid
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Recently, my wife and I agreed to help chaperone a camping trip for a church youth group. We packed up our equipment and headed for Coleto Park, where we were to meet the kids and their adult sponsors. On the way, I asked my wife if she knew how many were coming.
"We're expecting 14 kids," she responded.
"What age range?" I asked.
"Ages 10-12," she said.
I processed that piece of information for a spell and remarked, "We're going camping with 14 10-12-year-olds?"
She was quiet for a moment, nodded affirmatively, and then added, "All girls."
"So, let's see if I have this right," I said, "We're spending a whole weekend camping outdoors with 14 pre-adolescent girls."
There was a long silence. I could tell by the look on her face that we were thinking the same thing. I finally put it into words. "We must be out of our minds!"
The trip is an annual event designed to be a 30-hour fast. The idea is to help these kids appreciate what they have and not take for granted the fact that none of them knows what it means to be hungry, really hungry.
For 30 hours there is no food. Only fluids. Instead of eating, the time is spent fishing for enough catch to enjoy a hearty fish fry Sunday afternoon. So, we are not only going camping with 14 pre-adolescent girls, but girls who will be growing hungrier and hungrier as the weekend progresses. Add to that the picture of more than a dozen young, hungry kids flinging fish hooks every which way and I'm breaking out into a cold sweat.
I'm comforted by the fact that one of the adult sponsors is a competitive tournament fisherman. He has the responsibility to teach, coach and oversee the kids' efforts at finding, baiting and catching enough fish for Sunday's feast.
Off they went Saturday morning to the water's edge with poles in hand and an old ice chest filled with live minnows for bait. It started well, with all of the girls full of energy and anticipation as one hook after another splashed a row of concentric circles across the water.
Within seconds, most of them had reeled in their lines. Not because there were fish on the end of any of them, but because they couldn't wait to see if there might be. Some were so quick I could almost swear the cork wasn't even wet. How do you explain to excitable 10-year-olds that fishing is a quiet, patient sport?
It wasn't long before I noticed that only two girls were actually fishing. A third continued to cast and reel, cast and reel. You couldn't really call it fishing. A fourth girl had switched to wading, almost waist deep, ducking under and over fish lines.
That left 10 girls who had left the hunt all together and were circled around the ice chest of live minnows. They were catching minnows and putting them into clear plastic water bottles. It wasn't long before each bottled minnow had a name and a proud owner who spent the remainder of the day caring for and playing with their new pet.
We all survived the weekend, including the fish in Coleto Creek Reservoir. The girls learned to appreciate their lives of comfort and knowing there is always enough food at home. But I learned the greatest lesson. We adults may have been chaperones, but the girls were teachers. They reminded me how to play, giggle and turn any moment into an adventure.
Any time life gets stressed, uncomfortable or even painful, you may want to have a few young kids around. They haven't forgotten yet how to find fun. Look after their well-being and keep them safe, but let them lead the way. They'll get you through any moment.
I hope someday that I'm grown up enough to be 12.
Lane Johnson, M.Div., LPC, is a licensed counselor. He welcomes your comments. You can contact him by e-mail at lane@StrategicConnectionGroup.com.