The summer after my sophomore year at Illinois State University I worked as a camp counselor in the middle of Pike National Forest in Colorado. The next summer I was asked to come back to camp as a Service Crew Counselor. Service Crew kids and counselors spend their summers cleaning toilets, cooking food, and digging holes around camp. I said, “Um, let me think about it. No way.”
I said yes to coming back the next summer as a Program Director, because that seemed more my style – leading, managing, and speaking. I enjoyed it very much, but I really regret not doing the Service Crew gig.
It’s only taken me 20 years to realize that I’m not really gifted to lead or speak or manage people. I can do it. I have done it. I will do more of it in my life time, but what really gets my blood flowing is physical work that meets a tangible need.
I spent this past weekend cooking for 60 college students at our Spring Prayer Retreat. The week before I planned the menu, did the shopping (hello 3 trips to Sams and a 15 passenger van full of food!!), and prepped as much food as I could. On Friday night I put on my apron and basically didn’t come out of the kitchen until Sunday (with the exception of a two very sweet times in prayer with our students).
I enjoyed every aspect of it – from scrubbing potatoes to making veggie tray after veggie tray. I loved cleaning up and tip toeing in extra early to cut up fruit and scrub pans. On Sunday I came home with more energy than I’ve had in months. Ben and I talked all afternoon and stayed up to watch the Oscars. (By the way – what was up with Renee Zellweger’s face??)
I’m a little ashamed of the reasons why I didn’t see myself as a service crew kind of girl. I aspired to leadership and the spot light when I would have been happiest and most myself scrubbing floors. Even this weekend I felt a little guilty that I was having so much fun working in the kitchen. Part of me wondered if I was hiding from responsibility or shirking relationship or backing away from making a “spiritual” contribution.
But part of me was just happy to be hard at work, feeding the people I love.