Sunday, March 19, 2017
Daily Thought
 
The Power of Love
Waking up to the sound of rain this morning filled me with this sense of peace. Remembering where I am today brought back all the memories of a journey that started nearly ten years ago. I am at Camp Twin Lakes in Rutledge Georgia serving at Camp Blue Skies Foundation’s spring camp. Camp Blue Skies is a organization that produces week long camps that serve adults with developmental disabilities by giving them a chance to socialize, challenge themselves and develop life skills to help them cope with their disabilities. The whole idea is to make those everyday challenges disappear for a week and let them just be themselves and not someone with a disability, just a person. This will be my 6th year serving this group and I can’t imagine being anywhere else. This journey started for me about ten years ago when a couple of experiences lead me to this place. I was enrolled in a leadership development program called Legacy where I found out that what happens in my life is really up to me. About the same time I met Dick Sesler and his son Brent both of whom would change the course of my life and bring me here today. Brent was a young man with Williams Syndrome, a rare genetic disease that impacted his cognitive development. His father Dick Sesler was a personal training client of mine while I was Fitness Director at The Crown Athletic Club. Dick soon became a good friend and mentor to me and one day introduced me to his son Brent. I worked with Brent for a short time walking and exercising to help him develop better health habits. Brent got a job working at Carolinas Medical Center and so I did not see Brent for a while as he adjusted to his new job. The leadership work I was doing lead me to help create a disaster relief team to go down to Mississippi after the monster hurricane Katrina. We went down for 7 years helping to rebuild homes devastated by this storm and support the families trying to get their lives back under the enormous strain of losing everything. I saw what a highly motivated team of individuals could accomplish when we are able set aside our egos and individual needs and serve others. It really landed on me that mission work was something I was going to be involved with for the rest of my life. I didn’t want it to be something I did, but who I am as a person. My daughter Fern was 7 years old at the time when I started the mission work and I wanted to teach her that serving others is a way to act on our faith and make God real in the world around us. Going back year after year to Mississippi served to deepen my resolve to serve. In 2010 Dick approached me with an idea he had about creating Camp Blue Skies and I was all in. After meeting Brent I knew I wanted to join his mission. We had one more trip to the Gulf Coast before the camp there in Mississippi was to close so I was not able to go to the first Camp Blue Skies weeklong event. I told Dick that next year I will go for the whole week. I just knew it was something I had to do. The second camp was held at Camp Harrison in Boomer NC. Not only was it the coolest camp I had ever seen, but also the impact on the campers was life changing for them and me. I knew then that this was my next mission and committed to going back again and again. I was a cabin counselor which means I stayed with the campers in the cabin and helped them with everything from getting ready in the morning to facilitating the different challenges and programs they were to engage in. On the third day our cabin was at the Giant Swing element of the ropes course there. The Giant Swing is a challenge event where the campers, using a harness, get clipped into a cable and the rest of the team hoist them up in the air as high as they are comfortable going (a relative term) then the camper will then pull the release and they swing back and forth until the stop and then dismount from a ladder. For many of these campers it was their first time ever exposed to this type of challenge and some were very afraid to even climb the ladder never mind being lifted high in the air and swing. There was one camper in particular that had a really hard time and it took a long time to give him the space to decide or not to do the challenge. Finally he got clipped in and the team hoisted him up in the air, he pulled the release and swung through the air. The cheering and encouragement from the team and counselors helped him overcome his fear and accomplish the challenge. The joy on his face told the whole story, and to see everyone rally around him and congratulate him just reached into my soul and changed me. To see him an the others empowered and lifted up, I knew in that moment that I was right where I was supposed to be and that this was something I would dedicate myself to as a life goal. After a difficult and rewarding weekend I returned home. After unpacking I sat down on my back porch to take a moment to process all that had happened, I began to cry and continued to cry for a long while. All the emotion of what I had experienced came out. The sadness that these beautiful individuals who had been afflicted with their disabilities, the joy we experienced with them as they were able to be normal and accepted for who they were even if just for a week came out of me. I could not control it and it changed me forever. I knew right then and there that I had to do this work. The foundation has grown to adding camps in Georgia where I am this week and a second additional camp in NC. I have been to every camp since. They had added a camp in Ohio but I just could not make it to that camp as it was too far away. Dick approached me after the first camp with and idea to add a health and fitness activity to the curriculum and that is how my Balance Your Body program was started. I have delivered this program for 5 years now and has become a favorite activity with many of the campers. I have gotten better at it as I learn more and more about the needs of these special people. This work has lifted my soul every time I am fortunate enough to be able to do it, and I will continue to do this work as long as I am able to. The connections with campers, volunteers, and the foundation staff are some of the most precious relationships in my life. The love and connection that happens here is truly amazing and has lifted me up many times over the years. To see the volunteers who come back years after year, the colleges who send volunteers brings joy to my heart to see these young people understand this work and are changed by it. I wish I had the opportunity to experience this work as a young man, it would have changed much in the course of my life. The last 6 months have been one of the most challenging of my professional career with the launching of our new business called Kinetic Heights. It has taken all I have along with my partners to bring it about and has taken me to my limits. I have looked forward to this week for some time now knowing what happens here has helped keep me going at times when it just seems too much. To think that I will be able to serve the special needs community through this new business venture brings great joy to my heart, and the fact that my partners wholeheartedly support this work makes me realize I am blessed to be working with them. I look at my life now compared to where I was 10 years ago and I am just blown away by the richness of the love and compassion that is a big part of the fabric of my life is truly amazing. The fact that I can take something that is my passion (working with the special needs community) and have it now be part of my everyday life motivates me more now than ever. This journey has been life changing for me and many others and I hope to be part of this amazing community for many years to come. When I first started working in mission 10 years ago I never could have imagined where it would lead me, and to dedicate my life’s work to serving the vulnerable ones in our community. At first I thought it was just the right thing to do never truly understanding how much this work would impact my own life and the richness that it would bring to all the relationships in my life. This week in particular has been my retreat, to be here today at Camp Twin Lakes for a few rest days of RnR in between camps to renew my spirit with this work, ride my bike, rest up, and read has been cathartic in a way that has inspired me to come back more committed to find the love and compassion in the relationships of my life that makes life really worth living. The power of love is life changing if we take the time to let into our lives through serving others. I share this with you in hopes that you would take time to look around you and find ways to serve those close to you and others in need as a way to find love and compassion for yourself. Reach out in love and find that it comes back 10 fold. 
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