I just got back from Victor Wooten’s Music/Nature, Jr. Camp on Monday morning and I had to share something that happened while there. First of all, I’d like to say that every time I work at one of these camps, there is always a gift, something that I get from being there that is so satisfying, that whatever stress I was feeling before I got there is gone. I’m energized, my soul is nourished, I feel strong and ready to face life again with fresh perspective, grounded and clear headed. It’s almost miraculous!
I’ve been asked by many people why I have been “volunteering” my time for this camp for so many years if I’m not being paid. Why do I take so much time off my paying job to come to work in the woods, get very little sleep, to scrub dishes, clean bathrooms, sell merchandise, drive back and forth to the airport to pick people up, go shopping, clean trash cans, etc… Sounds fun, huh? Well, believe it or not, it is! All year round I answer emails from people who are interested in coming to our camps and little by little I get to know about them, their lives, and then it all comes together in 6 days and the personalities, the music, the nature, the awareness all blend together in this giant cosmic mixing pot and the results are nothing short of magical!
I want to share a story with you about something that happened at this recent camp that warmed our hearts. I’ll start with a little background on something that we do at most of our camps. Our sponsors are generous enough to donate items to us for our raffle that we have on the last day of the camp. Some of these items are large ticket items, like an electric bass guitar, an acoustic bass, an amplifier, effects pedals, recording equipment, midi controlers, etc. We also have T-shirts, CD’s, books and those kinds of smaller items. All of these things really do add up and the raffle is quite a big deal. When the students arrive at camp, we give them 1 free raffle ticket just for being there. During camp, they are welcome to purchase more tickets towards the raffle and they also earn some tickets for completing certain exercises at camp like making fire during a nature class, or the last day ‘obstacle’ course. Another time that a student can sometimes be awarded a ticket is for doing something out of the ordinary that strikes one of us as extraordinary and we may feel the need to reward them with something. So we will write their name on a ticket and what they won it for, for example, kindness, or extra dish duty volunteer, that kind of thing.
Well, partway through the camp one of the parents came to me and said his son had lost his first day ticket. We do stress the importance of not losing that ticket when we hand it out and it is our policy not to just hand out another, so I didn’t do that. But his father did purchase a couple more for his son to make up for it. He felt it was a good thing to contribute for one way or another since all of the proceeds go to the camp and we are a non profit 501(c)3 corporation. I told him that I would keep my eye out for it and let him know if someone found it.
The following day, a young boy came up to me all excited about finding a raffle ticket on the ground and he thought that was “good luck”! I asked him to sit down and talk to me for a minute, so he did. I asked him, what if I told him that I knew who that ticket belonged to? Would he feel that giving it back was the right thing to do? I asked him if he understood the meaning of the word “karma” and he said yes, he did. He knew that if he did something good and honest, that good things would come back to him. I did point out to him that it didn’t always mean that it came back right away, or that it came back in the ways you thought that it did. It didn’t necessarily mean that he would win the bass that he wanted so very badly, or that something would come back immediately. But, more importantly, that right now in this moment, at this camp, people around him – adults like myself and Victor, the father of the boy who lost his ticket, the boy that lost his ticket… we would all respect and think so much more of him for his honesty and his integrity for turning that ticket back to the boy who lost it. That should mean more than winning something at the raffle. I told him that I would point him out to Victor also, and that would make Victor very happy. I know this was very big in his decision to give the ticket back!
Something else had occurred that morning, and I want to bring this up before I go on. Some of the kids were playing ball outside the barn that morning and a ball had hit the beautiful stained glass window that said “Wooten Woods” on it, but no one had owned up to doing it. Now, of course Victor wasn’t thrilled that the window was broken, but he was more upset that nobody came forward to say that they accidentally had broken it. It could have been a hazard to the other people walking by, someone could have stepped on glass, or the rest could have broken at any time and fallen on someone’s head as it was above our main door. Even as Victor addressed the entire class, nobody was willing to come forward. This was disturbing. I brought this little episode up when I was talking to my new friend with the found raffle ticket, and I asked him, “What do you think is truly important to people like Victor, or myself or any of us on staff here?”
And he smiled really big and asked where he could find the boy to give the ticket to.
Because I value honesty and integrity more than anything else as human traits, I wrote out two new raffle tickets with his name on them. One said “honesty”, the other said “awesome”!
Now, even if this story had ended here it would have been perfect. We had lunch and I pointed him out to Victor, I had briefly mentione the situation to him and Vic was pleased and said thank you to him. The young boy was beaming and thanked me for that recognition with Victor. It did mean something to him. But…I’m not done yet…
We got to the raffle the next day, and people started winning things. My awesome young friend won a couple of small items, very cool indeed! I know how much he wanted that bass, though… I told him to touch it in the merch area and put some magic “mojo” on it! But it came down to that item being raffled off, and a ticket was pulled and it wasn’t a blue ticket with a name on it,..it was a red one with numbers. Vic called off a couple of the numbers, 3 people were standing and he was one of them! I started to get excited…then there were 2 people… and I just knew it… the last number was called and…. YES!!!! Instant karma!!! He won that bass! His face lit up brighter than I had ever seen and I was so glad to see that. He deserved it! It’s so rare to see karma at work that quickly, but every so often, the universe works so magically that it takes my breath away. This was one of those times. Adam had won the bass he wanted so much!
But wait…story is not over yet. Oh no, not by a long shot! So another ticket is pulled, another item goes by. Then, one more ticket and… it’s blue – guess what’s on it? “Adam – for Honesty”… no lie. His honesty ticket came up and he won yet again!!!!! Anybody that tries to tell me there is no magic in this world, or that karma does not exist, needed to be there that day. But wait … this is sweeter still. Mr. Awesome, as I prefer to call my friend, was winning a gig bag on this ticket. Since he had just gotten one with the bass he one, he chose to give up the win and pick a new ticket to raffle off the gig back to someone new. He gave it away to someone else. Not only that, since he had won a couple of smaller prize items earlier, the young boy that had lost his ticket early was sitting next to him and he gave a couple of his items to him. How’s that for integrity?
Don’t you love a good story? Especially when it’s true? Yeah…me too. The real truth in all of this is that there is always a gift, a lesson in every camp. I hope that this lesson was one that was able to take with them and never forget.
I’m going to bring this back full circle — why do I work at these camps? I think you all know the answer now. Look at the amazing gifts I receive every time I am there. I was able to be a small part of something so beautiful that may have changed some people’s lives. I’ve said it in a prior blog, I think, a life of service for me, is the only life that makes any sense.
I don’t often say this either, but it fits right now. Namaste – “The light in me respects, honors, loves and bows to the light in you”
till next time — Toné