This past week I headed back to Camp Gray in Wisconsin to volunteer for the week. The reflection on that week will be posted soon since after all this time, I finally realized what a good idea journaling about the daily activities was! Some things at Camp have not and will not ever change, which was a great sense of comfort to me. Other things, however, are drastically different and can never be the same as that hot, hot summer of 2012.
One of those things that has changed is the staff. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise for me, as the full time staff is pretty much the same as when I saw them last August, however, driving up and not seeing swing set in the yard next to the office still makes my heart sink a little. Paul and Annie had already moved to Tennessee by my last visit to Camp, but at that time I think I sent a short text to Ann saying it was weird stopping by “their” house and not seeing the living room full of toys. After that, I proceeded about my weekend. This past week, however, it was a glaring reminder to me that my life had been impacted by someone so great and just like that swing set, Paul is no longer with us.
I was asked in discussion last week if working in camp made me think of Paul. Yes! I have thought about Paul so often in the past six months that if he was still here and I told him about it, I can here that giggle of his and him saying “Thanks, Beth…but that’s a little weird.”
I have thought about Paul when literally the last thing I want to do is go on a hike in 40 degree weather on a Friday with kids who are tired and my weekend is so close that I can taste it. Because of Paul, I stick a smile on my face and play more games than necessary to make sure those last few hours with the kids are just as memorable as the first.
I have thought about Paul when a teenager has called me an “effing b****” and I wanted to cry, content to let a student win. Because of Paul, I remember that Christ still lives in her and while she might not have the best attitude, I can pretend it didn’t happen and help her have the best experience possible.
I have thought about Paul when I haven’t dressed appropriately for an unplanned trek through the soggy outdoors. Because of Paul, I roll up my pants and vow to stick my sneakers in the dryer later. Who am I to say no to a creeking adventure if the kids want to?
I have thought about Paul when a student makes a discovery, remembers a fact they learned or said something hilarious. Because of Paul, I share those stories with whoever will listen later. I have several notes from him thanking me for taking the time to recognize the achievements of my kids and sharing them with him.
I have thought about Paul when I face my fears and witness kids do the same. Because of Paul, I have jumped from ridiculously high heights, have touched more bugs than I care to admit and can reel off some facts about water beetles. For it was the only time I ever heard/witness Paul be stern as a boss when I had a meltdown in staff training about digging in the mud and touching bugs. In his firm but reassuring way he said “Beth, you signed up to do this and that includes digging in the mud. Now let’s go back and just try it.”
I have thought about Paul when I get up at a campfire and do something I consider “his part”…the 47 skit, the farmer in the camp counselor skit, a run on in between acts. Because of Paul, I learned these things and in the back of my mind I see him doing them right along with me.
This past week I thought about Paul as I sat in Camp’s St. Francis of Assisi Chapel and how even on our busiest days, he made sure we had ample time for prayer. How we could have 150 kids showing up in an hour, but it was important to him that we say a whole rosary or do all of the Stations of the Cross or attend daily Mass in town. Because of Paul, I went to 10:30pm Mass even though I was tired and hungry and the cereal in the dining hall sounded more inviting. Because of Paul, I took time to visit the chapel and bring students along. Because of Paul, I still start to say the missionary prayer every time I sit in those pews.
I thought about Paul when my campers asked if we could wake up in the middle of the night to play Panda Ball while the rest of camp slept. Because of Paul, I found myself agreeing that this could possibly happen. (Why not? What’s one night?) And I KNOW it was because of Paul that the girls (to my relief) decided it wouldn’t be the most fun after they were woken up at 3am to go to the storm shelter.
Because of Paul, I brace myself when I hear someone say “you know, I was just thinking and I came up with this great idea. What if we…” Because I know that it probably means more work but in the end, it will definitely be memorable.
Because of Paul, I go the extra mile in cleaning camp because I watched countless times as he scrubbed toilets, swept cobwebs and emptied vacuum cleaners to help us out.
Because of Paul, I have found the job I want to have for the rest of my life. If it weren’t for Paul taking a chance on someone who blatantly admitted to not liking anything to do with the outdoors (who hires someone for camp when they say things like that!?), I don’t know what my life would look like right now. Because of Paul, I am a better person.
The hash tag that has been used is #livelikepaul which I have found, at times, almost creepy. You see, the theme at camp the year I worked there was “Live Like That” based on the song by Sidewalk Prophets. The opening lines read “Sometimes I think, what people say of me when I’m only just a memory when I’m home where my soul belongs? Was I love when no one else would show up? Was I Jesus to the least of us? Was my worship more than just a song? I want to live like that and give it all I have so that everything I say and do points to you.” Paul exemplified these lyrics to a t and every time I hear the song, I have to wonder, what did I do today to #livelikepaul?
It’s been 6 long months without you, buddy. I can only hope that Heaven is filled with Charleston Chews, Wee Little Leprechaun jokes and more adventures than you could have ever imagined.