Although I don’t fully remember, I think I agreed on my own accord, with no significant pressure. No arm twisting, no gun at my head.
Last week, for five nights, I chaperoned a middle school mission trip to Asheville, NC. There were 11 kids, our youth director, a cool 19-year-old intern, and me.
We stayed at First Presbyterian Church downtown with two other youth groups. We walked 75 stairs to the fourth floor Sunday School room which was our home base for the duration of the trip. We weren’t allowed to use the elevator. They said it was cantankerous. I suspect they wisely just didn’t want 45 twelve-year-olds pressing the stop button between floors two and three or calling the grocery store from the emergency wall phone asking if they had Prince Charles in a can.
I’ll have to admit, I was a bit nervous about this trek. Although I worked with these kids throughout the school year on Sunday nights, it has been about three decades since I traveled with pubescents.
Each night, after we’d spent the day working at various nonprofits throughout Buncombe County, we had two hours of debrief activities with the five college interns who ran the program.
Yep. We sat on laminated tile squares in the church’s Fellowship Hall for hours. The squares were clearly glued to concrete because when we finally stood up, my butt bones ached like they’d been beaten by a beam of steel.
Now I love Jesus, but if you’re gonna talk to me about Him for that long, I need a cushion. If I go back next year, I’m wearing biker shorts.
At one point I stood up and got a sniff of my hands. I’d forgotten the smell of classroom tile floor. If gray had an odor, this would be it.
My air mattress was comfy enough but occasionally little bubbles would float up and give me a startle. It was like a kernel of corn had unpredictably popped on an unexpected point on my body. At 12:15 AM, my left shin. 1:13, the outer side of my right bicep. 3:06? My aching hip.
Although I left with a great appreciation for a lot of things, while there, I was most thankful for Tylenol PM. It wasn’t a deep sleep, but that and the 3’ x 3’ floor fan by my head were my saving graces.
I have never in my life seen so many cheese balls eaten within a six-day period of time. They were everywhere – crunched into the laminate, under air mattresses, and ebedded between some unbrushed-brace-filled mouths. One kid even used the orange powder to paint eye-shadow on her friend.
By Tuesday evening, the boys’ room smelled like a dumpster: sweat, farts, worn out boy tennis shoes, sour towels. I felt like I was sleeping inside a very large jock strap. I walked into the girls’ room, and there was a faint waft of roses hovering over their Lilly Pulitzer pulled up comforters.
I think I was pretty cool for a 50-year-old father. I mean, I whipped and nae naed (for you nerds out there, it’s a new dance).
One night we walked through a Labyrinth. We were told to be quiet and pray for someone who wasn’t like us.
I prayed for the kids. They are no longer like me. But they’re a sharp group, anxious to serve.
They have a lot of choices ahead. My hope is that they have wisdom and that the time we spend with them today has meaning tomorrow.