confession: I hated kids camp.

I hated my first summer of kids camp. Hated it. Homesick, sad and lonesome. Suffered through the days and hoped to never go back.

Honestly, I never stop thinking about that 5th-grade-Becca camper when I am training my summer staff. And I never stop thinking about her all summer long when I see the misfits trying to work their way into their group of peers.

My trouble was that I was so dang excited to take the swim test. I had just completed swimming lessons a few weeks before and had mastered my underwater breathing and got a star next to the front crawl portion of my swim test. So when it came time to swim around the swimming area, I was ready to show the world my new skills.

Unfortunately, it was a wavy day. And as I turned to make my next long swim around the deep end, I turned my neck up to get my gulp of air and instead gulped a wave. They swam me over to the floating raft where I choked on the lake for a while.

All of this was deflating enough. Remember, I had skills I was going to show the world. But to make it truly worse, I was given a scarlet letter in the form of a purple wrist band that signified to all at camp, "this girl can't swim."

Horrible! I still ache for that fifth grade girl. I had plenty of friends there that week, but my confidence was shot and all I wanted to do was find my mom and tell her the whole horrible story.

My sister was there that week as a counselor in training, and she kept encouraging me to retake the test, because she knew I could swim, and just not do the fancy breathing. But I was too embarrassed. To show up for the retake test might be more humiliating than wearing a bright purple, inch thick bracelet all week long.

My counselors that week were mediocre at best, and I remember one discussion where they announced that we couldn't canoe to the picnic area across the lake because "not all of us had passed the swim test." But then they found a lifeguard who could go along, as long as she was in my canoe.

I think about those counselors, too, when I'm training my summer staff. It's not okay to be mediocre. It's not okay to be that oblivious to the pain one of your campers is suffering through.

So that's my job now: to train our staff to find these suffering souls and to love on them! To make sure that camp might just be the one place where they actually fit in and feel gifted and empowered and safe.

There's no real happy ending to that purple bracelet story. Maybe it built some character. I didn't go back to that camp for another four years, and only went because I had friends who begged me to join them.

I passed the swim test that time around, and it was Christmastime before I clipped that pink bracelet off my wrist.

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