The words of the old campfire song take me back to Camp Koolaree, where I first learned them around a fire, singing with the 7 and 8 year old campers I’d come to be chaplain with, during their three nights and four days at camp.
This year, returning to the week of teen coed camp in early July, they took on a special meaning, as the mountain top above Duhamel and Six Mile sent out clouds of smoke and flame. At night, the trees candled and flared, highlighted against the sky across the lake from the camp, I looked at our cabins filled with young, bright, joyful souls, and wondered about the ironic value system we have unleashed upon them.
Over our week on Kootenay Lake, watching safely from the swimming dock at Koolaree, we saw water bombers, helicopters and fire fighters fight to contain the threat to homes below, and trees above. It must have been an incredible cost. Balanced, of course, by the saved homes and trees and the cost of replacing them. But still, a lot of the provincial budget is consumed in fire.
Not that we’ll run out of funds. No matter how difficult the season, we continue to fight fire, until the weather turns and cool air blankets the province. That’s when the irony occurred to me.
All of the kids at Koolaree are wonderful. All of them. Bright lights and sparks and dancers. Joyful singers, energetic swimmers, thoughtful thinkers, artists, game players. I could not begin to compile a list that comes close to describing them, and their capabilities, and their potentials. All of them are greatness and wonder.
Some of them will run into difficulty. Some will wander down a path with unintended and unexpected consequences. Some will be hurt, some will be harmed. Some may end up on the thin margins of our social system, forgotten on the streets of the downtown East Side, or heading up a family as a minimum waged single parent. They may languish in a care home, or toil long hours for small pay in hopeless occupations.
There will be fires in some of these lives.
Will we fight along side them, throwing every resource we have into the fray until the rains come and the cool air soothes, or will we hit a ‘budget wall’? Will we shake our heads regretfully, and speak longingly of a day to come when the world is a better place and we’ll be able to do all we wish we could?
When, I wonder, will our children (no matter their age) command the same attention from the provincial budget and the budgets of our hearts that is given without counting the cost, when the trees candle against the skyline above the hills?