Monday, July 30, 2007

The Order of the Cross

I think the thing I like about boys camp over girls camp is the history of traditions and rituals that are not observed as heavily at girls camp. Boys camp has clubs, and "societies," and lots of secret activities. Which normally I would hate, but I think in this environment, and with kids, it's okay. They're positive and esteem-building, and give the kids a feeling of belonging. There was actually some debate about this the other night in the office to which I was privy. One side arguing that it was damaging, and the other side arguing that it gave kids something to strive towards. I belong in the latter category. This whole, "everybody has to make the team so no feelings get hurt" bullshit drives me crazy. Kids have to learn how to cope emotionally with disappointment and failure at some point. But I digress. I like the clubs.

Plus I get to be a part of it.

Last night I was sitting playing cards with some people at about 10:30, contemplating going to bed because I've been sleeping sooooo badly lately (having trouble with both falling asleep and staying asleep, which doubly sucks) when one of the head counselors, and a friend of mine, walked into the room and said he needed to speak with me outside. He took me off the porch, and around the building, and had a rolled-up t-shirt in his hand. He turned to me and said, "You have been chosen to become a member of the organization of the Order of the Cross. If you accept, you must wear this blindfold, do whatever I tell you, and agree to be initiated. All I can say about it is that you will not be humiliated. Do you accept?"

So I accepted.

He tied the t-shirt snuggly around my eyes, blocking out any light or vision whatsoever, put his arm around my shoulder and told me to walk with him. We started down along the gravel road through camp, but soon veered off into the rough terrain, and from what I could tell, the steep downhill slope towards the gym down by the waterfront. My suspicions were confirmed when he guided me down a short series of wooden steps, to a wooden floor, which could only be the gym. He sat me down on the floor, told me not to speak to anyone, remove my blindfold, or stand up. He would come back for me.

I sat there, totally blind, for probably ten or fifteen minutes. All around me I could hear other people being brought in, light footsteps, various whispering. Occasionally, I could sense a flashlight beam being shone across my face, but only vaguely.

Finally, my friend came back to collect me. He whispered to stand up, that we were going to take a "trust walk." This essentially entailed leaving my blindfold on, but having no guide, either, except to follow the sound of my friend's voice, and trust that he wouldn't let me fall or run into anything.

Okay, that sounds easy enough, but anyone who has walked the terrain of CP knows that it's rough enough in the daylight, when you can see. I did okay, and didn't really have any trouble trusting him, until we got to the part where he led me out on the docks. He had me keep walking and walking, until I was sure I was about to reach the end and plunge into the lake. So he stopped me, had me spin around a couple of times, then start following him again. I wasn't sure, since I had spun around, if I was going back towards the shore, or if he took me left, since the dock is an "L" shape. So we get to an edge, he stands next to me, and tells me to jump.

I don't jump.

He says to jump.

I still don't jump.

He says, "You have to trust me. Jump right now or it's over."

So I jump.

And land on sand.

And he laughs at me.

And I laugh at myself.

So he leads me on. "Follow my voice. Follow my voice." I do all right, and I have a pretty good idea of where we're going, judging by the terrain. Finally he stops me, and removes my blindfold. I'm standing on the edge of the lake, near the counselor ring, where there's a fire going. He tells me to stand still, don't talk, stare at the lake, and think about why I've been chosen. He says he'll be back, and he disappears.

Of course I start to look around, and in the glow of the fire behind us, I notice that there are several of us, spaced about 20 feet apart, all standing silently, staring at the black lake.

Around this time it starts raining, and it was already cold. Behind me I can hear the running and stomping of multiple feet. Other people are being brought into the counselor ring, dragged backwards along the grass by two people, and stopped at the entrance. I hear their voices, shouting, asking who dares to enter their campfire.

I wait and wait, hear this happen several times, then finally, I hear the footsteps behind me, and both of my arms are grabbed, and I'm dragged along the grass to the entrance of the counselor ring. I'm suddenly blinded by about ten flashlights all in my face at once, and someone says, "Who dares to enter our ring of fire? Do you know the password?"

Then one of the men that's dragged me and is holding my arm says, "No he doesn't, sir, but I do, sir, and I'm willing to vouch for him."

The first voice then asks for the password, which is whispered in his ear, and I am pulled into the counselor ring, and set on my knees before the fire, where about 10 or 12 other people are already arranged, also on their knees, facing the fire pit. This goes on for some time, until about 20 people, both staff and campers, have been placed around the fire.

Eventually we get into the ceremony, which is basically just explaining what the Order of the Cross is, and why we'd been chosen. It's an organization based on "service," whose tenets are Helpfulness, Hopefulness, and Love of Nature. You have to be nominated by someone already in the group, and then be voted upon. They said the people chosen had figured out that to be in the service of other people was the greatest gift you could give mankind, or yourself. Everyone chosen, it was explained, gave selflessly of themselves, imparted wisdom and kindness to others, accepted and took responsibility, showed a great love for their fellow man, and helped to foster a love, appreciation, and respect for nature and the earth.

Some quotes by famous people about service were read, and then the Bible verse from Corinthians about love was read (which is one of the few Bible verses I actually find really moving):

love is kind,
it is not jealous,
love does not boast,
it is not inflated.

It is not discourteous,
it is not selfish,
it is not irritable,
it does not enumerate the evil.
It does not rejoice over the wrong, but rejoices in the truth

It covers all things,
it has faith for all things,
it hopes in all things,
it endures in all things.

But now remains
faith, hope, love,

these three;

but the greatest of these is love.

Eventually we were told why we were chosen, and taught the "secret handshake." All in all, it was a really pleasant surprise, and I felt incredibly honored to have been chosen. Ultimately, I'm not sure what any of it really means, except the knowledge that you have been recognized, and you're appreciated. And if I should come back next year, of course, I would help pick the new recruits, and participate in their "hazing." I've never been initiated into anything before, and it was fun.

Today they're going to give out patches for recognition, and I'm going to put it on my blue jacket when I get home.

1 comment:

Stacy said...

I love this post!