When grown-ups color …


When grown-ups color, a whole new world is created.

Yesterday I sat among a room full of coloring grown-ups. It’s our fifth year at Royal Family Kids Camp, and the preparation day always – ALWAYS – leaves me more than just a little choked up. Because grown-ups … Engineers, Doctors, Lawyers, Administrators, BIG IMPORTANT GROWN-UPS WITH BIG IMPORTANT JOBS … sit down to color a sign. A welcome sign. They always know the name of who they’ll be welcoming, but they don’t always know their face. Or their favorite color. Or whether they’ll get off the bus with a frown or a smile.

But they color. And they guess. A little pink flower here, a little hand-drawn airplane there. And a name.

And then comes the welcome. With colored sign in hand, an army of grown-ups prepares to meet a flood of 6-11 year olds. As each child steps off the bus, their name is called and their counselor for the week runs forward with their hand-drawn sign, welcoming them by name. Gets me every. Dang. Time.

Because I know it’s a glimpse. A glimpse of a welcome we will receive someday when we leave this place for a new Somewhere. Be it an angel or an ancestor, someone will greet me by name, and maybe they’ll even have a sign with my name on it. Not so that they’ll recognize me, but so I’ll recognize them. And know that they’ve been prepared and waiting to celebrate the day I’d arrive.

Now today is the day I’m celebrating arriving HERE in this life. 35 years ago today I met my Mom and Dad. They were ready for me, with a name and everything (thanks to my Mom’s favorite soap-opera). It’s hard to think of a better way to spend your birthday than with a hundred little faces yelling out a “happy birthday” across the camp from a zip-line or a swimming pool, and co-counselors offering sincere hugs telling you you’re special even as they run off to the next activity. To be honest, I really like a birthday that’s not all focused on me. It’s a lot less suffocating.

Still, a little focus on me is a fun thing. And today I got it from a special source. I’ve written about her before. Amanda is the girl who came back, the girl who taught me big things, and now will be forever in my heart as my favorite-birthday-cake-preparer.

Amanda rallied our cabin full of girls to create a “birthday cake” made of apples and drizzled in caramel. They carefully carved out letters from apple slices until they had H-A-P-P-Y B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y, and then surprised me with it with a song at lunch time. Little did she know that caramel & apples are one of my favorite combinations. This girl – this feisty, fierce, and (this year) FRIENDLY – eleven-year-old has blessed my socks off. Again.

And I’m convinced it all goes back to the coloring. To the grown-ups remembering what it’s like to be a kid, and then being as kid-ly as they can, so that the kids can SHINE in all their kid-dom.

When grown-ups color, a “birthday cake” is carved out of apples and drizzled with caramel. Yum.



Secret Identities


Tomorrow some of the world’s superheroes will hang up their capes for another year.  They will return to their secret identities as Nurses, Salespersons, and yes, even Lawyers.

But this week, this week the capes came out and the masks were donned at Royal Family Kids Camp – a special camp for abused or neglected children.


This week, over 100 superheroes banded together to fight evil.  To “punch the devil right in the nose” as has been said.  Donning camp t-shirts and superhero masks, the true selves came out.  There’s Queen Bonnie, who valiantly launders soiled bedding and clothes.  Lifeguard Peter who can be a mean old pirate or your best buddy, depending on your pool manners.  Mail-lady Audrey, who can run circles around your local mail-man even though she can’t run a mile.  And Tea Party Leslie, who reminds you with a smile that “when in doubt, pinkies out.”

These are their true selves.  These are the selves that love tirelessly, that get smacked (sometimes literally) and offer the other cheek, that dress up for tea parties and dance like gorillas just to get a smile or a hug.  These are our truest selves.  The selves who see the person instead of the problem.  The selves who step beyond denomination in the name of love.  The selves who stand up to evil and say YOU. WILL. NOT. WIN.

This is why I call them Superheroes.  It takes a super strength – one that can only come from a Source greater than us – to stare into the face of a ten-year-old who cuts herself to feel better … or a nine-year-old that finds it easier to communicate with fists than with words … or a six-year-old with cigarette-burn scars … and show them that love will win.  That they are more valuable than anything that’s been done to them.  That there’s another way.  That there are safe people and safe hugs.

When people ask me if I had a good week at Royal Family Kids Camp, I always pause.  Yes, yes I had an amazing week.  I saw love win.  But also, also I had to see things that I wish weren’t true.  I had questions that went unanswered.  I saw things I can’t control or prevent or turn back the clock for.

But see, this is when superheroes are needed most.  When love and hope and trust are threatened.  When nightmares come true.  And so we don the capes and shed the business jackets.  Put on the tea party dresses in lieu of a stethoscope.  And dance like no one’s watching (in fact, kinda hoping that they’re not).

But the thing about superheroes is, even when they’re in their secret identities – as Doctors and Nurses and Lawyers and Salesmen and such – they are forever watching, forever praying, forever aware of the children that need their love, and willing to give it in a moment’s notice.

And this world is a better place for it.  These kids are better for it.  I am better for it.

What about you?  Have you met a superhero lately?