Monday, January 20, 2014

"Was it worth it?"

When I was in college, I had the privilege of serving as an MDA camp counselor. It was a week long camp with children of all ages who had muscular dystrophy and similar physical conditions. It was an experience that made a huge impact on me.

I remember the first time I showed up to meet my camper. I was nervous and somewhat uncomfortable because I had not been around children with muscular dystrophy, or people who were confined to a wheel chair. My discomfort was soon replaced with joy and gratitude when I met my camper. His name was Tony. He was 16 years old at the time.

Tony had not always been confined to a wheel chair. Before his muscular dystrophy weakened his body, he was an active young man, able to walk and run. However, his condition didn't change his attitude or spirit. Tony was one of the most influential, joyful, positive and caring people I have ever met. He was a true inspiration and made everyone feel great. He smiled constantly and knew everyone by name. As I think back, I wonder why I was so blessed to have been his counselor. I didn't deserve to be, but his love made an impact on me that I am grateful for.

Tony never let his condition keep him down. Though he couldn't walk or do many of the things for himself most of us take for granted, such as bathe himself, brush his teeth, etc., he remained joyful and kind and full of life. His personality was contagious. He was a true saint and blessing to all who knew him. I wish I was more like Tony! He's one of my heroes for sure. I miss him very much.

After an amazing week of camp, I went home and was overcome with emotion. I remember sitting at the table eating lunch with my mom and I started sobbing. I suppose it was a combination of overflowing joy, emotional fatigue, and sadness all at the same time. My mom wasn't sure what to think I am sure. She even asked me as she saw me sobbing, "Was it worth it?" I said, "Yes!" It was definitely worth it.

I had grown to love Tony in just one week. He went from being a complete stranger to a dear friend. I knew his time on earth was going to be shortened due to his muscular dystrophy, but I was grateful to have met him and have the privilege of calling him a friend. For some reason, I only served as a counselor for two summers. I wish I would have continued on for more summers. Especially since when Tony was around the age of 21, he passed away. I didn't get to say goodbye.

There are moments in life such as this that I believe God uses to soften our hearts and influence us.  We can either respond with gratitude and surrender, allowing Him to do His transforming work in us, or we can run in shame and remain in darkness. Sadly, I let shame and darkness remain. How could I not be changed by what I experienced those summers at MDA camp? Maybe the change is still in there deep in my heart, like a seed, waiting to grow and blossom. That's God's grace. Memories of blessings that get forgotten for a season, but not forever.

Thank you, Tony for your life. Thank you MDA of Jackson, MS. Thank you Jana for trusting me enough to ask me to serve as a counselor. Thank you God for blessing me by this experience. May I not waste this memory or blessing.

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