Some places seem to be much more fragile than others. This summer, I had the opportunity to go and help out at a Bible camp just for a couple of weeks, to help as a cabin leader. At the start of the week, kids would pile into the camp with their parents, some nervous, some excited to get to know each other and enjoy the games and many excitements of camp. And for the whole week, I would find myself extremely busy and happy spending time with the nine twelve-year-olds in my cabin, counsellors, and all the other kids running around the camp as well. Doing devotions, praying together, eating together and playing games together, we soon got to know each other very well, and before long we felt like a little family – the nine boys, myself and my junior counsellor.
However, before long, the week came to a close. The kids packed up and got ready to home. Dirty clothes and numerous little injuries told the story of all the fun they had. The night before the boys had to leave, some talked about how they wanted to come back next year and do the same thing – that we should all come back next year and be together again. I was happy to hear that they enjoyed it, and to hear them long for a ‘repeat’ in a way, but I knew the truth – that this week could never be repeated again. Camp is a fragile place. It lasts for a week, and in that week there’s an amazing mix of kids and counsellors, which makes the whole time so worthwhile. But this mix of kids and counsellors and experiences can’t last forever, and it can never happen again. It just won’t. Never again will all the same kids be together, with all the same counsellors and be able to enjoy being together all over again. That’s life.
MCS, my old boarding school, is a fragile place. I can remember in my final year of high school, lying in bed, thinking about the changes that would take place when graduation day came. Never again could I walk through these halls I knew to find the same friends in the same rooms. Never again would I take my toothbrush at bedtime and seek out the company of the guys in my class while I brushed – to sit on their beds and try to talk through the toothpaste to them. We would all be replaced. Soon these rooms would be someone else’s, or they would be left empty – as they have been. Some of us might come back and visit and, by chance, may even be together at the same time, and be able to re-live some shadow of our experiences in high school, but it would never be the same.
Some places are solid. Like a tree or house – even the school building we spent so many years in, these places stay more or less the same. Of course, there are always changes. Trees grow bigger, houses change – but they are still there, they continue on. You can climb a tree you climbed in your youth and sit on the same branch, and look out to the same view and, for the most part, it can be the same.
Camp and boarding school are like grenades. All the fragments and particles share space and memories together for moment in time, but when their time is up, the pin is pulled and all the pieces explode across the world – blown into a million tiny shards. Exciting. Painful. Never again can they be put back together. Never again can they be the same.
However, this doesn’t make the fragile places less precious. I really hope my feelings are never mistaken for bitterness or anger, because it’s not like that at all. These places are still so valuable, and the experiences and memories don’t lose their meaning because of the violent separation involved. But I know that some places and experiences will never be the same. One might gather a few fragments to piece together something that looks similar, and bears some semblance of the original object, but still, everything has changed.
These are the fragile places.