cake

“I’ve never had a birthday party.”

“While my wife and I were walking from the swimming pool to the cafeteria, I was complaining and moaning about it being at such an exhausting camp. I was really upset because my birthday was coming up that Thursday, while we were at camp (I would turn 26).

Robin was trying to console me and confront my attitude when Jason spoke up behind me: “Hey, it’s my birthday this week, too!”

Without realizing it, a group of children had been following us. I was so embarrassed. Did you know that children listen to adult conversations? I found out that they do. I spun around and got down on his level to ask about his favorite birthday gift or party (a common question I ask kids). His answer stripped away what little I had left of my worldview.

“I’ve never had a birthday party.”

I didn’t have any words. I was stunned. I grew up in a very chaotic childhood, and yet even we had birthday celebrations. What kind of world do I live in where children are not celebrated, are not told how precious they are, are not recognized at all? Oh, so this is the world of abandonment, abuse, and neglect.

Injustice consumed my thoughts, and I had a choice to make. I could play the “oh, that’s sad” game and go on my way, or I could choose to make a difference to this one. I went down to the nearest store and bought a watch for Jason. I asked my wife how I should go about giving it to him. She replied back with a much more complicated question.

“What about the other children? How many of them haven’t had a birthday celebration?”

I was trying to do my one “God deed” and take care of Jason, and along comes a mom who thinks about all the children. I thought Jason’s story was an anomaly, an outlier. We asked and found out that none of the children had birthday celebrations, and two of the little girls didn’t even know the date they were born.

What’s wrong with us? We can procreate, but we can’t celebrate? We can make children, but can’t nurture them? Not on my watch; not while they are in our care. We had birthday celebrations for every camper. We sang the song, we ate the cake, and we had presents for each one of them. They tore into the gifts while the adults stood by and cried a mixture of joy and shame.

Oh, the children have taught us plenty. I can say that they have wrecked my world, and now I see them all in shades of royal purple. I’m a “lifer” because I am no longer ignoring our responsibility and calling to the least of these, our modern-day orphans. All we wanted to do was run a camp for hurting children. Then all we wanted to be was world changers. Now, we understand the importance of just changing the world of one.”

– Glenn Garvin (VP of Camps, Clubs, and Mentors)