By James McLean
Growing up in the situation I did was not easy. I had shuffled around from foster home to foster home until I was six, and from very early on I was afraid of losing people because I was so used to it. Every couple of months I would move on to a new family, new foster siblings, another home and like the others, they would soon send me away. Even after I was finally adopted by the most amazing mother any 6-year-old boy could ever ask for (Shameless plug. Love You Mom), it still didn’t quell the fear.
When I was in second grade I met my very first friend, and he and I were as thick as thieves until one day we got into a fight and he told the entire class that they had to choose between being my friend or his. I stood there while the entire class walked over to his side. It was in that moment I decided I would never trust anyone ever again.
When I was 13 years old I gave my life to Christ, but despite that incredible decision I still refused to fully give my trust to anyone. I made my way through life living by two simple rules: #1 Only be close to people for a short amount of time, then when the time comes, walk away. #2 Be an acquaintance. I was nice to many people because I felt that was my obligation as a Christian, but I refused to befriend anyone. This attitude almost cost me my relationship with my brother and the closest thing I had ever had to a best friend.
During my college years, I went out of my way to avoid any real commitment in terms of friendships. I kept to myself, I was very much an introvert. Even when I made the move to Houghton (Best School Ever) I still kept my walls up, refusing to create any real longstanding meaningful relationships. I met a lot of great people, but like always I remained nothing more than a casual acquaintance.
It wasn’t until a wonderfully goofy bearded individual named Mason Sebian made me a unique offer. He had been hired to work a summer camp named Camp Hebron, and he wanted me to join him. I had worked at two previous summer camps and both times I kept my walls up, I felt like this time would be no different. Gosh, I love being wrong sometimes. This time was much different.
On the first day there, I went out of my way to put on my mask and be friendly. As the weeks went on I began to feel my walls slowly fall down. I couldn’t explain it, nor could I stop it. And truth be told I liked the way it felt. That summer changed me in ways I didn’t think were possible and I’m so grateful God worked in my life the way he did in order for me to end up there.
On the final day of camp, I was standing by the Gaga Pit near Sylvan View where Mason and I had just finished saying our heartfelt goodbyes to the rest of the staff. I was standing there with two people who I had grown very close to during my time at Camp. Their names were Jonathon Lady and the Michelle Noyes. I had found two incredible friends in these two amazing people. Then came the realization that I might not ever see again these two again. For the first time, I was afraid to walk away, the thing I did best was now the last thing I wanted to do.
As the three of us stood there talking and trying to prolong our goodbyes, the time for me to head up and meet Mason for the trip home had finally arrived. I said my goodbyes and turned to walk away, but not before I got surprised with one more hug. It was Nicole my favorite dance partner and someone with which energy was never in short supply. She and I talked briefly but eventually said our goodbyes. As Mason and I drove away I recalled her surprise hug and it finally hit me ‘I was leaving, and it hurt’. I tried to put on a brave face for the ride home but deep down all I wanted to do was have Mason turn the car around and take me back. Finally, I made it home after a 5-hour drive back to New York. As soon as I got home I sat down and thought to myself “If I had one wish I would relive that summer a hundred times over”. But then I realized two things, number one wishes don’t exist and if they did I would have to first find a genie and number 2 I had so many people back at Houghton who were just as amazing friends as the people I had met at camp. The difference, this time my walls were down.
This semester has been unbelievable, I’ve made so many new and amazing friends and I’ve actually been able to get to know them up close instead of from a distance. I’m so blessed to have all the friends I have here at Houghton. and I’m so grateful for the friends and the place that made this new me possible. Thank you, Camp Hebron!
Your support empowers our summer staff to bring laughter and play and community to camp all summer long. Through their leadership, campers grow in faith, build relationships, explore creation and try new things. At camp, hope is inspired and joy is experienced. The gospel is proclaimed and lives are changed. As one camper said this past summer, “I got closer to God and things are totally different now.”