Monday, July 19, 2004

Doing the Right Thing is Never Wrong

On Saturday, my wife and I picked up our son from the overnight camp where he had spent the preceding seven days. We weren't sure what to expect from him when we arrived there to take him home. Would he be happy to see us? Would he be even more smart-alecky than he sometimes is already? We didn't know. We just knew that we missed him terribly.

We had scarcely arrived at the camp when we saw him, strolling towards us from the dining hall. He and his friends had just finished a macaroni and cheese luncheon. Actually, he himself had finished a luncheon of bread. He doesn't like macaroni and cheese. Is there another kid, anywhere in the world, who doesn't like macaroni and cheese? What is he going to eat when he goes to university and won't touch the perennial student fare of Kraft Macaroni Dinner with gobs of ketchup?

Our son seemed to have sprouted up again and looked relaxed and happy. He spotted us and broke into a run towards us. He stopped for a second, turned and said something to the friends he had been walking with, then charged towards us. He launched himself at me and I got a big, long hug, then so did my wife.

I can't tell you how good that felt.

Over dinner, later that day, we heard all about his exploits. Several of his stories were of particular interest to me. I had known that the campground was run by a local Catholic diocese but hadn't really thought that there would be much in the way of religious activity there. After all, it isn't politically correct any more to be openly religious, especially if the religion in question is Christianity.

We aren't Catholic. I grew up in a very religious, fundamentalist Protestant home; the Pentecostal denomination to be specific. I drifted away from the church mentally when I was eleven or so and physically (as much as was possible without hurting my parents,) when I was fourteen. My wife grew up in the periphery of the Ukrainian Orthodox church, but her family rarely attended services. Nevertheless, I think that the values taught by most Christian denominations are a good foundation for an honest, productive life.

I have had many discussions about religion with my son. We have talked about Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Atheism and Agnosticism. What we didn't discuss about each religion were details that I either didn't think were important in a general discussion, or that I simply didn't know about. What came up in my son's contribution to our family colloquium were two things that we hadn't really addressed -- the sign of the cross and the act of communion.

It appears that at mealtimes, grace was said and the Catholics in the group crossed themselves. My son, having had no experience with that act, didn't know what to do. On the one hand, he didn't want to offend anyone by not following suit. On the other hand, he didn't want to do something that might not be 'right.' I had discussed hypocrisy with him on several occasions and I think that might have been in his mind.

On one occasion, communion was held at the camp. The priest, in his preamble, said to the group that Christians could partake in communion, while non-Christians, who might feel uncomfortable with the act, should simply cross their arms over their chest as an indication that they did not wish to participate. My son, having heard from me many times that I grew up in a Christian home, felt that he should partake of communion, although he had never done so before and wasn't really sure what it all meant. The fact that my family had been Protestant and that communion was being held by a Catholic priest seemed irrelevant to him. Christian is Christian, right? If there is a God, I'm sure He would feel the same way.

I think everything turned out OK. My son wasn't struck by lightning for doing something to offend God. The priest and the counselors appear to have done everything possible to keep the little boys from being traumatized by things with which they weren't familiar. All in all, it seems the camp experience was a hit with my son.

I would like to thank the local diocese of the Catholic Church for making the camp available to non-Catholics and for helping my son have a very enjoyable week with his friends. There has been so much bashing of Catholics recently, that I think they deserve a good word for the positive things they do.

I discovered, after the camp was over, that this will be its last year. The diocese has an acute cash shortage and can't carry on with the camp. It's a pity.


  1. When we spoke, you told me that you had written this new blog, which was not too significant. I disagree. Any time you can express your feelings in such an honest way, it is always important. I'm so pleased that Zach gave you that well deserved hug. You should continue to feel that your sentiments should be expressed. They are meant to be shared, and you are a sharing and caring person. Thanks for being my friend.

  2. You're too kind, William. Sometimes, I feel as though I should be writing posts that are less personal and of more cosmic significance. On the other hand, what could possibly be more important than the love of a child?