“There are two types of people in this world: cats and dogs.”
This is how Kristin Leathers began her talk to us. When I say us, I mean the college students that traveled far and wide to gather for a week and prepare Windy Gap, a Young Life camp, for the summer ahead. She was repeating the words of a speaker she listened to some time ago: “Cats walk into a room and immediately say, ‘Here I am, everyone. No worries, all good, I’m here. Want to know about my life? Here’s what I’ve been up to…’ But dogs are quite different. They walk in and immediately shout, ‘WOW, HEY! I’m SO GLAD you’re HERE! I LOVE YOU! How was your day? How are you doing? How do you feel??'”
“There are too many ‘here I am’ people in this world. I challenge you to be a ‘there YOU are’ kind.”
It would be an understatement to say that I am exhausted. No, actually, I embody every aspect of the word if you multiply the aspects x12. I just got back from Work Week at Windy Gap, a Young Life camp situated in-between the beautiful rolling hills and mountains that compose Asheville, NC. This week triggered a reflection of some sorts; a look back on Young Life and how it has impacted and changed me for the better. I first heard about Young Life as a sophomore in high school, when my best friend asked me to go with her one Monday night. I agreed, and at 7:30pm I walked into a room full of happy, loud, crazy, caring, smart, funny people. That summer, before my junior year, I went to Sharptop Cove, a camp located in beautiful Jasper, GA for one whole week. The leaders and Young Life staff promised it would be the best week of my life. I rolled my eyes and hurried to claim my bunk in a cabin full of fellow friends.
Well, that week was the best week. Truly. I laughed, I sang, I danced, I cried, I listened, and I ate a lot of good food. Truthfully, I was still confused about the whole Jesus thing and how it worked. You know, being a Christian. I listened to great speakers share their testimonies and I mouthed the words to every song when the week’s camp musician went up on stage.
When I got back from camp, my junior year started. I was swept up into a relationship with a boy who mocked Young Life; he referred to it as “cult” and refused to hear any of my camp or club stories. I didn’t go to club on Mondays as often as I wanted or hoped. I just didn’t have time. I had my first car, my first boyfriend, and the first taste of being independent. Before, I was (gladly) caught up in the goodness and the kindness of Young Life camp and club – now, I was in over my head with parties, college applications, relationship issues, and the struggle to really fit in.
Fall 2013, I went to weekend camp despite my inconsistency. Windy Gap. It was fun. Sort of. Just so-so. Mediocre. Whatever you want to call it. I was just floating along, going through the motions, and counting down hours and minutes until I went to sleep that night.
Finally, I got out of the junior year funk. I broke up with my boyfriend the week before prom. I decided to graduate a year early and focus full-time on my absolute favorite thing: babies. I shadowed a midwife and became a nanny to a family of 6. I was out of high school for good, with my old, hurtful friendships and relationships behind me and my whole life ahead. I got closer and closer to a girl I had met at Sharptop some summers ago, and we hung out literally every single day. We decided to go back to Sharptop, deemed our favorite place on Earth, for Work Week in May 2014. Work Week is a week where college students all come together and prepare the camp for high schoolers and religious organizations to stay. What was the best week of my life was made possible by the people volunteering for Work Week; I couldn’t wait to be part of someone else’s experience. Because Sharptop never disappoints, Work Week was nothing short of amazing. I met new friends, stayed up late, ate too much food and took too many pictures to count. I got back the day before what would be my senior prom and went with a friend still in school.
So, after my first year of college and plenty of Young Life clubs and camps under my belt, I decided to jump back in. I signed up for Work Week 2015 at Windy Gap and asked my friend Katie to come with me. Here’s how the week went…
Wednesday // Got to camp around 6:30pm. Ate dinner (BBQ, cole slaw, and mac and cheese). Went to club. Went to bed.
Thursday // Awake at 6:30am, Katie and I walked out to the pond in the middle of camp before the rest of Windy Gap woke up. Ate breakfast, then spent the day cleaning the cabins for staff members and adult guests. Ate lunch. Worked some more. Ate dinner. Went to club. Went to bed.
Friday // Woke up at 6:30 and went on a beauuuuuutiful morning run alone. Here’s the thing, though – I’ve never gone on a run by myself and actually enjoyed it. But it was quiet and I saw no one. I listened to the birds as I ran. I was homesick. This day was already feeling like a day like one spent at weekend camp a couple of years ago. I struggled to find my place among the rest of the volunteers; if I didn’t talk to Katie and our cabin mates, I talked to no one. Made lots and lots of beds. Did lots and lots of laundry. Had the best dinner EVER (photo evidence below). Bought a t shirt and some stickers at the camp store. And square-danced. Yes, square-danced. With girls lined up on one side and boys on the other, I didn’t know my dancing partner until my arm was paired with his and we were pushed onto the dance floor. We got into huge groups and learned dances. I laughed and sang and “yee-hawwwwww!”ed and loved every second. I was no longer ready to go home. This wasn’t like weekend camp anymore. I didn’t want to leave. Ever.
Saturday // A full, full day of work. We were switched from housekeeping to dining hall duty and prepared the tables for meals. I was given a superhero name by my dining hall crew: Silver Bullet. When I asked “Cobalt” why, his friend joined in and said they just prayed for it. Alright, simple enough.
Sunday // A sunrise hike. Although we never made it to the view spot everyone talks about, and our friend Shannon almost lost her shoe in an endless pit of mud, it was peaceful. It was hard. We soaked up the last full work day as best as we could. After a day of dining hall duty, we went to club and sang almost the whole entire time.
Monday // Morning came a lot faster than I hoped and it was time to go. We packed and cleaned our cabin, then Katie and I made the drive home. After dropping Katie off at our house and spending some time with Mom, I drove two more hours that day to Charlotte since I hadn’t seen S in over a week.
So, now that you’ve gotten a glimpse into what my time at Windy Gap was like, what did this week teach me?
- To not be careless, but to care less. To wake up in the morning, throw your hair in a bun, forget about makeup, and feel secure.
- To do the work and to do it well. Don’t give up and don’t take the easy way out.
- To forgive. The week is stressful, the days are long, and emotions run high.
- To soak it up. Everything. The food you eat, the people you meet, and the sunsets that pictures can’t explain.
- To say, “There you are!” instead of “Here I am!” … to ask questions, to listen, and to love.
Windy Gap Work Week, you were oh too kind. See you next year.