Simple Truths

Summers Past

Being a student for most of my existence has made summers separate entities from the rest of life. Each summer, I would realize again that I was a different person in the summer than during the school year. Now that I’m finishing up my MFA and may be out of school for good, I’m wondering if my life will be a summer from now on. And I’m wondering if “summer” is less of a season and more of a state of mind.

This wondering has caused me to reminisce on summers past. I only post blogs when I feel one is suiting. I try to feel it, really. With my heart. And know, “Hey, this one is for this week.” If it doesn’t feel right, I won’t click “Publish” even if it’s been months since I posted and I risk my readers abandoning me. With that being said, if it feels right, I may be posting some stories about summer . . . starting now with 2007.

I had just finished my Freshman year of college and, though I had very little job experience, was beginning a summer internship at what most would call a mega church. (I’ll save the name of this church since it and I have both probably changed very much since then). I had “felt” and “knew” that this was what I was supposed to do with my summer, and I am grateful that they hired me, green as I was.

As with most summers I remember, I had the greatest of intentions. Before leaving, I daydreamed about working with inner-city kids every day and planning activities for them. The daydreams were so vivid that I could feel the jump-rope barely missing my hair and hear the yells and laughs of playing children. In the midst of those pretty hopes, I determined to work like never before for these children I hadn’t met, to do whatever I could to influence their lives.

All these notions were demolished by the end of the first week of the internship. As many things, this was nothing I had imagined. I had been the only intern that wasn’t already involved with the church in some way. No one knew me, and instead of taking me in, many of the girls bullied me. They lied to me. They wouldn’t carpool with me. They wouldn’t share with me but they would take all I had. They left the unwanted jobs for me every time. They never invited me to go on outings with them. And worst of all, my days were scheduled to be spent with them instead of with children.

I spent most of Summer 2007 alone. I ate meals in my room or in restaurants alone. On the few occasions I ate with someone, I had to pretend that person hadn’t bullied me hours before. At the time, I was a runner, and I ran county roads alone, seeing no one, no cars, no dogs. I drove to work alone. At work, I basically begged for friends, which I’m sure was repulsive, but I was desperate for someone, anyone, to like me, to acknowledge one positive thing about me. In a church of thousands of people, only a couple made an effort to welcome me into their town, church, home, or small group. I was so badly wounded, but I was determined to make it.

Maybe because of that determination and most likely because of grace, not all was lost for me that summer. There were bright moments–running down double yellow lines between trees at dawn–that gave me breath enough to change my mind about running all the way home. In the very last week, one VIP of the church confirmed my work and one girl offered me an apology. My perspective on major life topics is very much owed to that experience, and so is my faith that people absolutely can change. That’s what I took away from that long, hard, lonely summer–a change of my own mind. I learned an incredible am0unt of truth about people, about church, about myself.  I know I’ll never be the same, and that was worth the loss of daydreams.

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