Tuesday, October 17, 2006

It's A Major Award

I have always loved that part of the movie A Christmas Story where Ralphie's father, played by Darren McGavin received his 'Major Award' which turned out to be a sexy ladies' leg lamp. When it arrived and everyone was wondering what it was, he would just tell them, "It's a major award."

I am not exactly what you would call a competitive person.

One of my best friends while growing up was a VERY competitive person. One of those people who was right even when they are wrong, if you get my meaning. He would argue the other side of something just to be able to argue, even if you absolutely knew he didn't really believe in the position he was arguing.

But me, I just never had much need to test myself against others. I never got jealous when someone beat me in a game, or scored better on a test or anything.
In fact, jealousy is one of those things I have so little of that I truly am astonished that people will ruin their own and other's lives over it.

Sometimes over the years I have fervently wished to be more competitive, but in the end, I just have to try to work with myself as I am.

Consequently, I have won very few awards during my life. Shoot, I rarely even enter free drawings and such.

But when I was about 14, I went to a Baptist Church Camp near Shreveport, Louisiana. It was on an island in the woods.

Just picture some of those Spanish moss covered trees in old, old woods. Throw in the necessary bayous/rivers/streams, I can't remember which. We're talkin' SERIOUS back-woods here. (Way out in the middle of nothing.)

The 'camp' was actually pretty cool by rough camping standards. Everything was built up off the ground on stilts due to seasonal flooding, but there was a decent boys bunk house and a girls bunk house. There was a kitchen/cafeteria building.

All the comforts of home, minus air conditioning. But everyone else was sweating and the cold-only shower was a bonus in my estimation.

It was a whole week of immersion into Bible study, prayer, Biblical instruction, and teams and competitions.

It is a testament to how low the level of the talent pool was that, at the end of the week, who was to win the overall award as "best camper" out of about one hundred teens, but little ol' me.

While I never outran anyone in races and such, I was a whiz at memorizing Bible verses, and this being a religious camping experience, much of the competition centered on being able to quote verses perfectly and to answer Bible trivia questions. (Though I know Brother Jackie would bristle to see me write the words 'Bible' and 'trivia' in the same sentence.)

But then I've always been interested in spiritual things. And a week of intense Bible study was right down my alley.

I always grew stronger in my faith at such retreats as this, but was always saddened by friends who walked a straight line as long as someone was watching, and then snuck off for cigarettes or to make out with a new friend.

To me, at camp, Bible was serious business AND fun. To others, it was something to be endured between games and swimming and canoeing.

And when I would come home, the natural high of a week's separation between me and most of the world's temptations would have me walking very circumspectly.

Over time however, even I would slowly be ground down by the temptations of being back in the real world and allow myself to fall somewhat.

I have never liked that about myself.

I'll be 44 soon, but I'm still working on that 'being in the world but not of the world' part.

But when I was in that element, in the intensity of the Christian camp, I was able to exercise a part of me that can truly excel.

And for a little while, I could engross myself in something that I was naturally good at. Most others there would just tolerate the church part, but to me it was as easy and natural as breathing.

Winning the Best Camper award was really quite embarrassing. I did compete hard, but not for the overall prize. I competed hard because I happened to love that particular type of competition.

It was the very first time I had ever bested a bunch of other kids at anything.

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