During my high school and college years, I spent many summers as a camp counselor in the strong and beautiful mountains of North Carolina.
In those days, the property where we took campers for overnight campouts was wild and dangerous.
At that time there was nothing there but a few logging roads. No electricity. No running water. No “facilities” other than the hole we dug in the ground. (Elementary kids thought this was hilarious!)
We got our drinking water from a rock in the side of the mountain. I got my first (and only) rapelling lesson from a Marine who walked down a seventy-foot rock cliff…face first!
We picked up black snakes. We brushed our teeth by skinning the bark off a twig and then chewing up the end so it resembled a toothbrush. We overcame our fear of heights by swinging across a forty-foot ravine on a wild grapevine.
Screaming down a ravine makes fantastic echo sounds!
Why We Put Kids Through Unnecessary Suffering
The point of taking campers out to this property was camping overnight. Cooking over real fires built from wood from the woods. Playing in an ice cold mountain creek. Pitching tents…oh, wait! There were no tents! (We slept in sleeping bags on the ground looking up at the stars.)
Of all the fun we had running wild and free through this gorgeous piece of heaven on earth, the one thing we never did was stay all night. You see, the mountains of North Carolina are wild and dangerous.
Nearly every single night in the summer a thunderstorm rolls through. Thunder-boomers with drenching rain and thunder and lightning make you run for the hills!
In our case, everyone gathered their stuff in the dark and ran for the buses. Whining campers and grumpy counselors would arrive back at camp in the middle of the night soaked to the bone!
Without realizing it, we were learning how to live in a wild and dangerous world.
Lessons for a Lifetime
This week I was reminded of the many formative summers I spent in those rugged NC mountains. Today our nation grieved as family, friends, and world leaders gathered to celebrate the life of “America’s Pastor,” Billy Graham.
This simple man who made his home in the mountains of North Carolina meant such much to so many for decades. Why? His clear but simple message has helped millions of people learn how to navigate through life in a wild and dangerous world.
That once wild and dangerous property is now the site of
Little did we know back then that we were camping on lands that would become a world-class training center for guests from around the world.
Whenever I turn off at exit 55, the strength and beauty of The Cove bring back a flood of fond memories. I will always be grateful for those wild and dangerous summers.
Building Strength and Beauty into Your Kids
While not everyone has such rare and wonderful opportunities, books can take you there!
Former N.C. State Basketball coach, Jim Valvano, once left an audience with this challenge:
To me there are three things everyone should do every day. Number one is laugh. Number two is think — spend some time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think, and cry, that’s a heck of a day.”
What better way to make this happen for kids than with an outstanding book! You may never realize the depth of character you are building into a child’s heart by reading aloud with them.
Why not leave your child each night with the suspense of an adventure? Or leave your students on the edge of their seats anxious to hear what you will read to them after lunch at school?
Read, laugh, cry, think, and talk with your kids! They will never forget it. You never know. They may some day need to know how to brush their teeth with a twig.
PS – “Billy Graham Stories”
If you have a “Billy Graham” story, please share it in the comment section below!
Though my campout story is not typical, I came very close to seeing him at a crusade.
My husband and I were newlyweds in 1987. Billy Graham was coming to Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina. As I recall, the weather was terrible and we were unable to go. (The people who attended were wearing trash bags as ponchos!)
I’ve often wished we had been a little more adventurous and worn trash bags, too!