Editor’s note: Associate Director Meghan Meros opens the 2019 Advent blog series, “Enkindled,” with a story from childhood and a reflection of the value of persisting in our efforts to enkindle goodness and light in the world–even in the midst of a storm.
The winter and spring of 1998 was an “El Niño” time in California. Unlike the California we so often hear about today, the California of early 1998 was drenched in rain, so much rain that the rivers overflowed and my family and I began to wonder if we had moved to Seattle.
It was in this climate that my Junior Girl Scout troop diligently prepared for an inter-county girl scout camp in which we had the opportunity to compete in activities such as compass work, knot-tying, and fire building.
Under the guidance of our fearless troop leaders, we practiced for months, following our compasses, tying our knots, and building small fires at many troop meetings throughout the summer and fall. The fire-building exercise was particularly interesting. After all, it’s not so easy to determine the criteria for judging a fire. Either it’s lit or it’s not, right?
Not so. Our goal was not just to light a fire but to make water boil in a Dixie cup. That’s right, we had to make water boil in those tiny wax paper cups that dentist office offices often give patients to rinse toothpaste out of their mouths, and we had to do it under a certain amount of time with a limited supply of matches. This required us to be precise in our fire building, and to do our fire building on a miniature scale. Instead of twigs we had pine needles, and instead of logs we had twigs. And then, in the center, was the Dixie cup with water. Once bubbles appeared in the water, we knew we had achieved our goal.
After much anticipation and preparation, camp weekend came. And then it poured.
Girls scouts are intrepid, but the rain was so bad that our troop leaders considered returning home. All our hard work seemed on the verge of washing away with the overflowing rivers, until we, a group of eleven- and twelve-year-old girls then we made a bold choice and voted to stay. Everything took place in the rain that weekend–the knot tying, the compass work, and even the fire building–but we were content to just be doing the things we had set out to do, even if all the activities looked a little different than planned. (The fire building, for example, took place under a tarp!)
When my troop returned from camp, soggy and in need of good, hot showers, something had been enkindled in us that had not necessarily been present during all the months of practicing and may not have even been present if the weather had been normal and everything had gone as smoothly as expected. In the intense context of the El Niño year and the rain it was being dumped on our camp, our desire to reach our common goal enkindled in us a deeper sense of friendship, of cooperation, and also of perspective. indeed, we were working under some pretty difficult circumstances, but it didn’t actually matter in the grand scheme of things.
Now, as we journey toward Christmas 2019, there may be times when we are acutely aware of all that is working against our ability to have sentiments like joy, peace, and love enkindled in us. Some days, the sky may be dumping rain, and we may just want to go home and have a warm shower. Some days, the conditions of life may seem less than ideal for enkindling anything worthwhile.
And yet, could something good and beautiful be waiting for us on the other side of the storm?
Could there still be value in surrendering to an unfolding of something unexpected?
Though my adult self may doubt and debate the answer, the Junior Girl Scout in me who built a fire under a tarp in the rain knows that the answer is a resounding “yes.”