If you have never poured your whole self into a game of dizzy bat, you may not know what laughter truly is. I remember the last time I played this silly game. We were training summer staff on a set of progressive field games where cabin groups switch out, moving from one activity to the other. Game times like this can easily be a boring stretch of time killing activity that keeps the kids all in one field, but that no one really enjoys. The key to caring about a relay that essentially gives group members creative ways to run from point A to point B is to find some sort of joy in it. You have to cheer with your group as if it really matters, knowing inside it is just a game. You have to throw yourself into it knowing the actual consequences with winning and losing are minimal, but the real consequences are in the release that comes from experiencing joy regardless of what it lies in.
We wanted our summer staff to understand that the game is not as important as the spirit brought to it. It’s like we are all in on the joke that this “competition,” isn’t about winners and losers. We cheer and yell for our teammates, but we know the thing we seek most is to enjoy our time together. I remember feeling that if I wanted my staff to let loose of their inhibitions and give themselves over to that sort of spirit, I would need to do the same. When my turn came, I ran across the field to the bat, planted my forehead on the grip, and spun on it 7 times. When I looked up, my equilibrium started turning circles, and I immediately tumbled to the ground. I was laughing, the staff was laughing, and for the moment, that’s all there was in the world.
Considering times like this, it is no wonder studies are showing us that laughter makes us healthier. We are in a time that seems to demand a lot of seriousness and responsibility; a time that seems to clear out any space left for humor, playfulness, and joy. Yet, I find camp offers a gateway to faith for people, partially because joy has an equal place at the table. Joy is such a release from the burdens we find ourselves compelled to carry all through the day. If we search ourselves, most of us can find plenty to take joy in: the beauty of nature, the humor of a friend, the energy released when we play, people who are there for us, the childlike ridiculousness we take part in when we are vulnerable.
We imagine a faith where joy has a place in all of our practices. We want to feel joy as we sing, while we pray together, when we hear a message that feels inspired by the Lord, when we are accepted as we are, when we treat each other with love that defies understanding. As I laid in Marvel Field with my head spinning, I found myself overcome with laughter. Under different circumstances I could have been totally embarrassed, but I was with a group of people I trusted and believed in. I was giving myself over to being playful, so we could all enjoy the activity more. The summer to come would be a challenging one that would test us all. I’m sure at different points we all found ourselves seeking that joy we all felt that day. I believe we all still held it within us. Joy is an exercise that makes us stronger for the future. The more we experience it, the more we will have in stock when seasons come that seem to have much less joy available.
We receive guests from many different places. Some come from places of great pain. I hope their time in our beautiful setting and their interactions with the Camp Magruder staff give them the type of joy that leads someone to laughter, possibly even a delirious sort of dizzy laughter, lying in a grassy field looking up at the sky, hearing friends all around sharing in that same joy.