The end of summer camp was hard for me.
I remember when I was a kid, my parents made me go to a place called Camp Squanto. It was a Christian camp on a lake in New Hampshire that, at first, I had no interest in attending. Hanging out in the woods for a week with a bunch of kids who tried to slip the word Jesus into every other sentence and sat around singing “Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore” was not my idea of a good time. I was too cool for all that.
But after seven days of games, cartooning, swimming, skits, songs, cabins, flashlights and memories, I begged my parents to let me stay a little longer. “Just one more week,” I cried, missing my new friends like crazy as we all drove in our separate directions.
Like the end of camp, our Summer Games ended yesterday and the kids are all back in school today. (For the curious: India only takes a forty-five day break in the hottest weather. In spite of six days of classes each week, the Indian school year has exactly the same number of days as are mandated in the USA, the difference being: they have many more holidays throughout the year, celebrating nearly every festival and holy day from every major religion of the world.)
We wrapped up the games with a closing ceremony and the presentation of the Summer Games Cup to Team Tiger. (They beat the Crocodiles by a narrow two-point margin!) Then we had a special outdoor lunch, followed by an epic water balloon/color fight that raged for three and a half hours. After a month and a half of fun, elaborate activities, the intense, no-holds-barred battle that left everyone soaked and stained was the perfect ending to an unforgettable summer.
And so this morning, as I saw the kids off to school, hugging them one at a time, comparing color stains that simply would not wash away (other than Clifton, I am still, without a doubt, the pinkest), watching them walk down the road without me…I was reminded of that last day at Camp Squanto.
I still have a little time left here at the Mission, but my Indian visa runs out in a month and I’ve started looking for plane tickets home…though having sold my house, I’m not exactly sure where home is anymore. I’ll be going to Maine to see my kids before they fly off to college in Florida and Vancouver. After that…we’ll see.
I was talking about it with Kelly the other day. Kelly’s one of the Small Girls (she turned 13 today), and we were sitting on the veranda, wondering about the future. When I told her I had to go back to the States for a while, she looked at me as if deep in thought. “How can you leave us, Uncle?” she asked. She wasn’t trying to make me feel guilty or accuse me of anything. It was just an honest question: How was I going to be able to leave?
I’ve thought a lot about it and I’ve realized a few things. Other than raising my own children, the time I’ve spent here with the Mission kids has been the most rewarding time of my life. I have felt loved and connected in so many ways, inspired to do more, to reach out, to use what time and talents I have to lift more children however possible. I know the difference that can be made. I’ve seen first hand the need that is out there.
I also know what it will be like when the time comes to say goodbye, because I’ve done it before. I was twelve years old, standing outside my parents car at the end of summer camp, missing my new friends, pleading for just one more week.[frame style=”modern” image_path=”http://indianorphanage.com/io/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/DSC06625.jpg” link_to_page=”” target=”” description=”End of the Strong Farm Summer Games 2014.” float=”” lightbox=”http://indianorphanage.com/io/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/DSC06625.jpg” lightbox_group=”” size=”two_col_large”]