“Do you want to wake up at five tomorrow morning?” I asked one of my campers before bed. It was the night before the closing day of that camp week, after a long day of activities.
“No!” He said. “Wait, what for?”
“To catch some frogs.”
My camper had been very disappointed. A couple days earlier I had let him and a few other boys catch frogs during our swim time in the dugout, and had lent them a container from my bag as well. He had caught a number of frogs, and had transferred them into smaller containers, hoping to take a couple home with him when he went. However, that same evening he had been told by another counsellor that he couldn’t keep the frogs in containers over night. As a result, he had let them go that evening, hoping that he would be able to catch some more the following day when the whole camp went to the dugout for games and swimming. But, once he got there, he wasn’t allowed to go to the side of the dugout that had the frogs, as he needed to stay with the rest of the group. And there he was, at bedtime that night, feeling a little disappointed about the whole thing. So, when I asked if he wanted to catch frogs the next morning he had a huge smile on his face. “Yes!”
That night as I lay on my bed, I wrestled through the situation. I had already been deliberating over what to do before I had even asked him. Taking a camper all the way over to the dugout early in the morning, by myself, with no life-jackets (they were required in and around the dugout)? I just couldn’t decide if this was something where I should be asking for permission, or asking for forgiveness after the fact, if I needed. I thought back on all my past boyhood disappointments. Rocks I couldn’t take with me when we left places. Sticks I couldn’t carry home. I can see why my parents didn’t let me at the time – and I’m glad for it now. But, how hard was it to spend some time one morning helping a boy catch a few frogs?
So, at five in the morning, my alarm went off and I strained my eyes into the darkness. ‘This is ridiculous,’ I thought. ‘There’s no way I’m catching frogs at five in the morning – in the dark.’ I closed my eyes again, and dipped in and out of sleep for almost an hour. Then, just before six, I woke up enough to look out the window again. It was just beginning to get light – enough to see frogs, at least. So, after a lot of shaking, poking and whispering his name, I finally woke my camper up. And a couple minutes later, there we were, two boys, both in hoodies and shorts, making our way up through the trees and over the hill to the dugout to catch some frogs.
It’s wasn’t very long before we got to the spot. With our ankles in the water we walked through the grass and small reeds, stopping when small spots of green would bounce across the grass, or plop into the water. I very quickly found out that I’m really bad at catching frogs. I really am. I would get so close – close enough to feel their little bodies slipping through my fingers, or bouncing off my hand, but I never got one. Thankfully I could at least keep them from getting to the water so that my companion could pounce on them and hold them gently in his hands. There’s something about seeing a little boy chasing after frogs that brings a smile to your face. It’s like seeing a bird in flight, or a dolphin jumping out of the surf – just to see them doing what they do best. He was a little boy, and had obviously mastered the skill of frog catching – something I must have missed out on in my youth.
Half an hour later two boys with three green leopard frogs, and one brown wood frog, headed back over the hill and across the grass toward the cabins. Their flip flops squeaked with water as they walked, and their faces beamed with smiles as they carried their precious amphibians in their little orange container. Sometimes God sends along little blessings and encouragements, just to remind you that there is a reason you are doing what you are doing. For me, this was just that.