cabin three had a rowdy reputation that year. the leaders were losing sleep and patience. the guys were up at all hours, they were hip, cool, and impervious to the body’s need for sleep. these were some cool guys and it was a challenge to connect with them in a meaningful way.
i was the camp pastor that year and was teaching each morning, then teaching / preaching each night. i loved camp. it was awesome getting my own kids out of their element for a week, but it was great getting to know the other 70+ teenagers who were there as well. teaching has always been one of my favorite things.
but this group of guys – they were almost too cool.
so the first two days have come and gone. we’re on day three and these dudes were being cool with me and all, but i really wanted to connect with them and just hang and talk. figuring out how – what could we possibly have in common?
on the way back to my cabin that night, the ruckus was loud as ever coming from cabin three.
i stick my head in. their leader sees me and runs for the door – relief!
and there are twelve guys standing in a semi-circle – one is obviously the leader while another standing in a squat position opposite him about 15 feet away, is obviously subjected to some horrible camp ritual. how can i tell? he’s in his boxers and a look of impending pain and agony is on his face.
“dudes, what’s going on? can i play?” i ask.
*loud cheers from the peanut gallery*
“you want to play nutball??” comes the incredulous reply.
“hmm. nutball. never heard of it. sure, how do you play?”
*cool dudes look at me with suspicion, wondering if i’m going to break up their game or if i’m sincere. what they don’t know is: i’m up for just about anything*
“we take this… ball… we made from rocks wrapped in a sock, and have 2 teams. first team up picks a guy who pulls his boxers down just a couple inches, opens the fly and squats. the other team has a pitcher who takes the ball and whips it at the other guys’… er, nuts… and if he makes it into the open fly it’s a point – if he hits the guys nuts… that’s another point!”
*more cheers from the teams*
it was at this point that a dawning admiration and horror struck me. i had just volunteered to have a sock filled with rocks hurled at my exposed ballbag. on purpose.
“whoa! sounds cool – who’s winning so far? how high do you play to?” and other questions were asked in an effort to stall what seemed inevitable – i was going to get hurt in the name of making a connection with these guys. and it was hilarious hearing them talk all excited about this absolutely insane game of pain, hearing who had their privates whacked already, who had scored the most points, how you didn’t HAVE to hit their nuts but could actually bounce it off the opponents stomach and have it land in the hole of his fly (but what fun is that?), and the sheer awe of having The Camp Pastor want to play.
i realized that i was vested in this and might as well get it over with as quickly as possible. i talked a bit more and then it struck me.
boxers. you have to wear boxers. i didn’t have any boxers with me. and none of these guys had boxers that would fit.
disappointed groans came from all the guys as they realized i was not going to be able to play. i stuck around for a few more innings of the game, wincing in pain at each point scored, cheering as loud as i could, and then excused myself.
and those guys spent the rest of the week treating me like one of their own, connected, all because of a willingness to take part in their pain game.
all just a part of camp leadership.