Monday, August 15, 2005

Summer Of the Monkeys

Okay, that's a pretty arbitrary name for my summer, but I like it.

Time for the update, huh? Well, here’s a play-by-play of the whole time I’ve been gone.

Week 0: Colorado

We went to visit Mom and the maggot. Originally I had remembered so many hilarious things that happened then, but I’ve kinda forgotten all the things I was supposed to remember. Sorry, guys. I went with the Ring Bearer, Wiggle, Ronnie, Racherella, and Pinetree. It was a really good group to be there with. We went to Estes Park and saw these little shoppes and had delicious chocolate. We went to the Dam Store and bought t-shirts, toured the statue parks, did the whole Denver thing with their 6th Street mall. Ok, funny part: We ate at this restaurant there to wait for the rain to stop so we could go to Six Flags. While we were there Hyrum engaged us in a story about a friend who has a medical problem that grants him a bloody nose instead of an erection whenever he becomes sexually aroused. At this moment there were peals of laughter from the table behind us. We realized there was a young couple who’s been listening the whole time. We felt sheepish, but the couple said it was fine and engaged us in conversation. We went to Six Flags’ Elitch Gardens and went straight to the waterslides. We rode one and were headed for the wave pool before it stated hailing and we all had to huddle in the musty locker rooms with all the other freezing people. There was an incident with the locker that took some time and was a large part of the reason that we only had time for one slide. And there was some kind of WalMart drama, too, but I don’t remember the details. The moral of the locker part of the story is that Ronnie was able to strut over and get us immediate help from some guy. In fact, she was able to do that at every point during the trip. We decided it’s definitely to our advantage to have such a hot girl with us always. We went on roller coasters after that for a while, except for the Ring Bearer, who was having a major personal crisis and went to Denver by himself. While waiting in line for a roller coaster, the girls started discussing the symmetry of the boys’ nipples when we heard a familiar laugh. Next to us in line was that same couple from the restaurant. We ended up having about a dozen such encounters with them. Also in Colorado, Mom made porcupines (my favorite food), we played rodeo with the adorable maggot, and things were all-around great. That was a pleasant and relaxing week all around.

When I got back to Provo we had a farewell party during which we watched Into the Woods. My friends did not seem to appreciate it. Losers.

EFY Week 1: Problems

My first two weeks this year I was a counselor, and I must say I’ve never experienced so much crap in one week of efy. I had a poindexter boy with an eating disorder, a tiny manically depressed boy who threw a fit during testimony meeting (“This is so boring! They’re all just saying the same things!” and then throwing hymn books at the girls), a kid who showed up at one in the morning, a kid who did nothing but brag about all the girls’ boobs he’d felt up and all the gay kids he was going to sneak out to go beat up, etc. One boy was very nice and spiritually advanced but hadn’t yet been taught about deodorant. So I made my little guy come with me to a class about inner beauty and sat with him at meals, sat and read the scriptures with the manically depressed kid and let him sleep extra each morning, assigned some girls to make sure the late boy felt included in everything, had a special talk with all the boys about how we treat women and gay people, and then an extra special talk with the boy who’s been talking so tough about how I wasn’t going to let him ruin the week for everyone else. I bought several sticks of deodorant and told the kids that I had deodorant to get them all spiffed up for the dances and things, and was pleased to see that a few of them took them. That was the beginning.

Tuesday night I awoke to the tattoo of small knuckles on my door. It took me several moments to orient myself and open the door. There stood my little anorexic boy (he was the smallest kid at efy by far and had only turned 14 the day before efy started).

“Something’s wrong with my room.” His words came to me through a thick haze of sleep.

“What?” I said, in a squinty voice.

“Something’s wrong with my BEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEP.”

When the smoke alarm went off in my room, the kid had my full attention. I jumped out of bed and went into the hall. I hate this story.

So down the hall at the kid’s room were his other three roommates, wrapped in blankets and peering in through their doorway, from which prodigious tufts of blue smoke were billowing and filling the hall. I ran down there and looked into the room, but it was so full of the blue smoke that I couldn’t even see the back wall. I ran and awakened the other counselors and together we evacuated the hall. The police were summoned, huge fans were brought in to clear the place of smoke, and the Head Resident played bad guy for about an hour trying to get information from the boys. It turns out someone had slipped a brick-sized smoke bomb through the kids’ window. My boys all smelled like smoke for the rest of the week. The walls of their room had to be repainted, the carpets cleaned, and special chemicals brought in to rid the place of the miasma. Nobody knows why my smoke alarm down the hall was the only one to issue the clarion call.

Wednesday evening one of my kids lost his wristband and I had to go with him to the office to get him a new one. Naturally, the office was closed when we got there, so as we were on our way back to our company (group in efyspeak), we passed two curmudgeonly police officers.

“Hey, you work for efy, I need to find a So-and-So and a So-and-So.”

Except he didn’t say “So-and-So,” he said the names of two of my boys. They had me get in the cop car and ride with them to the spot where the rest of our company was preparing their cheer. They made the two kids get into the back of the cop car. The more vociferous of the two didn’t let anybody forget that it was his birthday that day. Anyway, I had to accompany the boys to the dorms, where the cops interrogated them for about an hour. The boys’ parents were summoned, the coordinators and session director and my BC were all involved, but nobody was letting us talk to the boys. In the end we found out that they had been mistakenly singled out as the suspects in the smoke bomb incident instead of being filed as “persons of interest,” the cops had nothing on them, and they were free to rejoin the group. It was a pretty traumatic incident for all involved, though, (Staci had to tell the cops off, which was great), and the two boys exhibited a newfound spirit of contriteness for the remainder of the week. Birthday boy was the selfsame braggart who’d been lauding his past transgressions all week, so the whole miscommunication with the police had come to be a blessing. Besides the minor fight that broke out later that week, nothing else really happened that fateful week. Oh, yeah, except for all the NORMAL activities and crap that I had to do as part of my job. Friday for the banquet I got out my hair glue and took all my little dweebs and did their hair all spiky and let them borrow my clothes. They were studs. My anorexic hobbledehoy was asked to dance every single slow song. All in all, the week was a success.

Brother Johnson, our session director had encouraged us to focus on needing the Savior every hour on the first day he’d been there. “I need thee every hour” became my mantra. I know it’s because of the help I got from the Savior that week (really I was only helping Him, and feebly) that I was able to survive at all. The “every hour” part took on a new meaning when it seemed that literally every hour presented a new humongous problem, and the hour was any hour at all, all through the day and well into each night. That whole week was a great way to consecrate myself for the weeks to come.

EFY Week 2: Bond

I have less to say about the weeks where everything went right. This was one of those. Maybe I’ll just tell the story of Chris for this week.

Chris was a quiet Mexican kid. He had a beanie that covered his long hair, and he wore it everywhere. He never smiled, and always wore a flat, lugubrious expression on his sallow face. But there was something different about Chris. When we were in devotionals, he always knew exactly where I was going with the lesson. He could explain advanced gospel principles with lucidity, and invariably drove home the application of the lesson for each of the other boys. The other boys quickly grew to revere him. My only question was, “why the demeanor?” Thursday evening I decided to just ask him.

“What’s happened to you in your life, Chris?” I asked after another set of stunningly perspicuous explications (this time on the atonement).

He just looked at me lachrymosely for a few moments, then began to explain that his dad and grandmother had both recently died, and now he, at 14, had been consigned responsibility for his mother and little brother. My heart broke as I listened. When he finished, I told him that I was favorably impressed by him. I told him about my Aunt Laura, who used the terrible things that happened to her as an excuse to perpetuate the mess her life was in. I commended him for turning instead to the Lord.

The next day, Chris displayed a much more sanguine disposition. He told us that he’d been sick all week and hadn’t wanted to cause problems by telling anyone. He also confided in me that he had a goal to save up enough money when he got home to go get a haircut so he wouldn’t have to wear that nasty beanie anymore. He’d worn the beanie out of shame about his long hair.

Meanwhile, the boys in my group formed a stronger bond than I’ve ever seen in a group. All of them were leaders, all of them committed to living a more excellent way. I’m teary-eyed on my end here while I remember those boys. My Friday devotional was the best I’ve ever taught. I asked only one question: “What are your goals for when you get home?” The boys extrapolated on that topic for half an hour, challenging each other to reach the rank of Eagle Scout and get their Duty to God awards, obey their parents, read their scriptures daily, pray and serve more meaningfully, seve missions, and follow up with each other. They shared scriptures and insights and bore testimony. All the boys were crying like it was Girls’ Camp or something. There was a definite Spirit of Brotherhood there, brotherhood as an actual force, and it strengthened my testimony of priesthood and our preexistence.

I had a neat prayer for those boys when it was time to send them home. I was sobbing, terrified at the prospect of sending them back out into the world to face the inevitable abuses of life, and at my own inability to shield them further. I was given a whelming reassurance and reminder that they already have Someone far more qualified to take away their pains and succor them in their trials. I know those kids are all right, wherever they are.

This grows too long. More tomorrow.

6 comments:

Wiggle said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Wiggle said...

I love the stories you come back with after a summer of efy. I can't wait to hear more.

Given said...

I won't see you until after this whole mission thing I'm off to do, if I see you at all. I really hope you're around then. Life is better when you have smurfs to lead and entertain you. Hope all works out.

Redoubt said...

Into the Woods is pretty much the best broadway show ever.

My sister is an EFY counselor (for like, 2-3 years now) but she never tells me cool stories like those ^.

erin said...

Sometimes I'd like to go back and do EFY again, but I'm getting too old. :) It's fun to relive the memories of the crazy things and yet the spiritual things too.

Asmond said...

Smurfs...

Yeah.