“Did I do good?”, Tyrone asked me after a football game. We were on a Great Outdoors University camping trip and had found a meadow for a game in between setting up camp and supper. Fighting the temptation to turn this question into a grammar lesson, I mentioned the excellent plays he had made throughout the game. I have enough life experience to understand that Tyrone was not simply asking for an evaluation of his football ability, but his value as a person. It’s a familiar question for me—one I have asked (a little less honestly) all of my life—especially of my father. Because I hear it so often, I imagine it’s one that is pretty universal among boys. We crave to hear our fathers say, “you did good (sorry Mrs. Shiver, but our desires aren’t always grammatically correct).” I took Tyrone’s question as an invitation to step into a father figure role (at least for this two night camping experience at Hickory Creek Farm in Campbell County) for him and the other seven junior high boys I was with. It felt good to me.
I began to look for ways to affirm the excellent young men on this camping trip who are succeeding at PTM—not in a broad “you are doing well” kind of way, but to really find the unique gifting of each student. “Dylan, I was so impressed by your bravery when we heard the coyotes howling (even though we later found out the owner of the farm was playing the coyote sounds on a loud speaker).” “Quan, you are so steady and strong in the way you catch a football and help carry equipment.” “Terique, you are cheerfully willing to take on any task—even the ones that are boring or dirty.” “Ladarius, I love your sense of humor and the way you make others feel good.” “Jeraney, you ask such great questions and show true depth and maturity.” ”Marvell, you are a reliable leader. I love the way you are helping the younger boys stay on the right path.” “Keshawn, I notice how much you pay attention to detail in the stories you tell. You are very creative and I admire your tender affection towards others.” “Tyrone, you are tireless and you have an incredible vertical leap.” I admit it felt good to feel some power to help shape in a small way the wonderful experience they were having being in the middle of nowhere.
After one last story and saying prayers in our bunk house both evenings, I felt the peace that comes from knowing that God is present. I also got to feel God’s affirmation of me and my desire and willingness to play a role in passing along the blessing that our boys long to hear. In my attempts at obedience to the promptings of God, I can hear my own father’s voice of pride reminding me “son, you did good”. “Thanks D.”