"There is a terrible hunger for love. We all experience that in our lives--the pain, the loneliness. We must have the courage to recognize it. The poor you may have right in your own family. Find them. Love them." ~ Mother Teresa
Our fifth and final on-site work day began as all did this week... hot, muggy and a little bit slow. But the group soon got revving and the work quickly completed. Our friend Steve started our day with a rousing prayer and the Stockton Street park - which we have worked on every year of BASE Camp - was soon buzzing with activity.
Our last-second addition to our participants, Hser-Wah (pronounced CHAIR-wuh) soon led the charge on the dredging of the pond. Throughout the week Hser-Wah gained the reputation as our "BASE Camp ninja"... busily flying in every and any direction, vaulting vans and chasing down squirrels. Despite a limited grasp of the English language he was immediately embraced by the other participants as a member of the family, and a promise to return and join us next year was extracted. We were also joined on the last day by Grady Hipley, who after years of regaling us at BASE Camp with stories of Samurai and sword techniques finally got his chance to show his stuff by wielding a machete to hack through some serious growth that had blocked a pathway around the park.
Katie Parry - who stepped in to help with prayer and meal planning as well as on-site organization - took groups to the Arab stable for a visit. Other groups made the pilgrimage to the Hollins Market, sampling large quantities of Chuckie's Chicken as well as smoothies, snowballs and fried clams. Visits were made to our friend Robert's shop of museum-quality African art and ethnic trinkets, always an interesting experience. Throughout the week - wherever our participants traveled to - they joyfully greeted the residents of Southwest and engaged them in conversation. They took to heart Sr. Kitty's desire that the BASE Camp experience not just be about the work, that it is also about RELATIONSHIPS.
Our annual cookout at Stockton Street featured the usual jungle juice and blackened hot dogs, as well as visits from some of the more "colorful" local characters. But this, too is also part of the BASE Camp experience. It's what the memories are made of, and what keep us coming back.
Throwing 30-odd teens and young adults together for a week is not without it's challenges. After all, we are human. But we are also family. And even though there were the usual dramas, minidramas, microdramas and melodramas, this year was one of the smoothest BASE Camp experiences we have yet had. Like a family, our love and respect for one another always trumped any perceived failings. And those family bonds make us stronger.
After our return to St. Will's Fr. Marty celebrated Mass for us - his last liturgy specifically for youth at St. Will's before he moves on to his new parish. It was bittersweet, and following Mass we treated Fr. Marty to a SWYM tradition - a laying on of hands and praying over a family member that is moving on to new adventures and new challenges. Many tears flowed as the youth spoke of all Fr. Marty and his support has meant to us at St. Will's and to our youth ministry program.
Our day ended with a cookout and ultimate frisbee and music and games and fun and prayer and conversations that carried through the night into the early morning hours. All things that reminded us of the importance of what we are to one another - family... family in unity, family in Christ, family in love.