After being met by both a figurative and literal face of Don Bosco at Oakland airport, we arrived at camp, with one of the first things we were greeted with being: "We're sorry, but dinner tonight is going to be slightly different," which obviously doesn't offer much confidence after an eleven hour flight, and jet-lag starting to kick in. However, the apologies were made redundant almost as quickly as we realised why they were given in the first place, as we joined the young people for an Emmaus banquet.
Not only was this great, as it was something that I had not experienced yet, it was also great to be dropped in to such a wonderful group of young people. The feeling of community was so strong amongst the group, with everyone sitting to share stories with one another, but above all sharing food with each other. The nature of this meal was that the young people were split into groups, with each group being named after a country, and these countries were all represented by the variations of food that were on offer. To offer a realistic view to the young people, some of the countries had very little, and in some cases, nothing, with others having much more. This changed within the first five minutes, as the young people from the groups with more gave to their peers without hesitation, and in some cases shared the food they had with others, before taking food for themselves.
With all that is going on in the world at the moment, all of the anger, hatred, violence, and general lack of hope, it was so reassuring to once again be reminded that our young people can be trusted to change the world, a little bit at a time. One of the talking points of the conclusion of the week was how the young people were planning to take what they had learned back to their own communities, with many of them offering thoughts that start small, and grow into something much more. With this in mind, one of the young people gave a good morning for the group, reflecting on his own experience of working on a summer camp in the past, when one of the younger, more troublesome boys took a shine to him, leaving the camp at the end of the week saying how he wants to be a counsellor, like the young person from SYLC, when he is older. Amongst other things, we were left with the thought that we as Salesians cannot change the whole world in one go, but we can change the world for even one young person at a time.
As this world we live in continues to change, and uncertainty continues to grow, there are only some things that we can be certain about, and one of those things that I have come to realise during my short time here so far, is that we are extremely lucky to have been called to work with such wonderful young people, in our own parishes, schools, dioceses, centres, and anywhere else we encounter the young.
So, as we look forward to the start of the camp, as well as the arrivals of Br Ste, and Sarah, we ask that you keep us in your prayers, that we may be able to serve the young people of America to the best of our abilities, and be assured that you will all be in our prayers, as you journey alongside the young people of Britain back home this summer.
God bless, David McCormick