When I was very young I attended church camp every single summer. Yes, I know I cuss like a sailor and drink like a fish but just hear me out, okay?
I did. I went to church camp. We played games and sang songs and camped and canoed and played in the rain and stared up at the stars like we couldn’t imagine something so divine being right there where we could see it. Like we were looking at something we weren’t supposed to see, a universal secret we were all supposed to pretend we didn’t know.
One of the games we played when I was very young made us split into 8-10 teams and each team got one carpet square and we were told that the first team that got every single member of their line across the field without any team member stepping off a carpet square would win.
So we all tried, like good little soldiers, to get our entire team across the field while dragging each person across on the square, or hopping and jumping across without leaving the square and then flinging the square back to our line. Each of our little teams just a little island of determined people looking for the answer to this stupid riddle. All of us hot and sweaty and beginning to think the rec counselors were playing a grand joke on us, we were their entertainment for the afternoon.
Until someone said, “Can we join each other?”
And another kid said, “No of course not! That’s cheating!”
And I just stood there thinking, is it cheating? I don’t think they said anything about that being cheating but to be honest, I was probably not paying attention all that closely…
And then another kid said, “Yeah! Let’s all get in one line and use all our squares and make a bridge across the field, and if we run out the person in the back can pick up the last one and pass it down!”
But there was still that one cocky little shit of a kid that thought he could do it all by himself like he was proving something to himself or God or maybe the hot older counselor chick. And it took a while, but we finally convinced that kid to shut the hell up and get in line with us because we weren’t all going to make it across with his shitty little attitude, and we weren’t going to be able to go to the snack bar and get ice cream until everyone had made it across, so we couldn’t just leave him alone on his side acting like a jackass.
The counselors were so proud, gave us the big lecture about teamwork and no man is an island, all that great stuff. And probably they didn’t really think it’d make a huge impact on any of us. Maybe they didn’t realize one of us would take that one day in summer camp and think about it from all sides for years to come, analyze it, turn it into some grand metaphor about life that extended beyond teamwork.
But maybe this is all religion really is, maybe this is all that life really is: taking everybody from all walks of life and bringing them into our line and handing them our scraps and squares to step on so we can all make it across the chaos together. Maybe all the Christians can’t get across without the Atheists, or the Muslims or Jews or Buddhists or Hindus or any of us. Maybe if only one group keeps trying to get across on their own, no one is going to get any fucking ice cream.
So in closing: We’re in this together, so try not to be a dick, and help everyone else get in line and cross the field even if they don’t look like or talk like or pray like you do.