Campers

"Our accomplishments go beyond just fixing up houses for the needy. There's also a lot of personal growth and learning about God that goes on."

Simple words, spoken by Tom Shepard, a high school principal. He spends a good chunk of his summer vacation as a camp director for teenage volunteers who give their time and talents to fix up homes for low-income, disabled, and elderly people (page 18).

Mr. Shepard and the young volunteers he works with get much more in return for their acts of kindness than what they give. No surprise in that, but still a profound truth. The efforts of these volunteers reminded me of how my wife and I spent our first summer together between college and graduate school.

Newlyweds, we worked at a camp for inner-city children from Syracuse, N.Y. The kids - ages 7 to 12 - had a week of fun, nature, and group activity away from the crowded, sometimes mean streets of the housing projects. Camp counselors were high school and college volunteers. Pay was a pittance, privacy was nonexistent, and everyone loved it.

My wife and I lived in a log cabin deep in the woods by a lake. It was the only cabin with indoor plumbing, a perk, not because we were married, but because we were crisis counselors. We cared for the individual child who didn't, or wouldn't, fit in - whose behavior, unless changed, would ruin the experience for everyone else.

Were we experts in child psychology? Far from it. On this point, I relate to what Shepard says of the repairs his willing but amateur carpenters made: "If someone hired skilled contractors, they would get the repairs done a lot faster."

But we had love to share - one on one - at just the right time in each child's life - and our own.

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