Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Weekly Tithe: It's Fun to Stay at the YMCA!

This week in The Weekly Tithe, I give a big shout out to the summer camp that raised me.

YMCA Camp Loma Mar
One of the ideas behind tithing is to give back to an organization which helped to form your faith. While I have passed through countless houses of worship in my life, few affected me as deeply as the sacred, magic woods of YMCA Camp Loma Mar. The YMCA has become largely secular over the years, but every morning we would bundle up against the coastal fog of the Santa Cruz Mountains and troop to the outdoor chapel for Inspiration. I've never been much of a morning person, but raucous, joyful clapping and signing about Noah and the ark, and feeling happy, healthy and terrific was an always enjoyable start the day.

When I was older, I took on the challenge of participating in the Ragger Program, which played a huge part in forming the woman I would become. The story goes that in 1914 the Program Director of Loma Mar, Thomas "King" Caldwell, was faced with a dilemma: at the end of the boys sports camp, everyone was being given awards for their performance, but one boy was left out because he was disabled and had been unable to participate in most of the activities. However, he had a wonderful attitude, standing by and cheering on everyone else. Caldwell wanted to honor the boy's tremendous character, so he went to the store and found a blue bandanna. After all the awards were handed out, the boy was called onstage and everyone cheered as Caldwell explained that the boy was being recognized for his rich generosity of spirit and positive attitude.

The Ragger Program developed over the years for goal setting and personal growth. There are seven rags, each representing a different theme and demanding an increasing amount of sacrifice with each step. I don't remember a point in my life when I wasn't interested in personal growth, but the Ragger Program definitely helped me to refine my focus in goal setting and self-study. I had the benefit of wonderful mentors for each rag I received whose wisdom and guidance I still refer to years later (a favorite tidbit: "Assumptions make an ass out of you and me"). I also became a member of a worldwide family of conscious humans of character, and the program introduced me to the first ever mantra I would repeat daily, The Ragger's Creed:

I would be true for there are those who trust me
I would be pure for there are those who care
I would be strong for there is much to suffer
I would be brave for there is much to dare

I would be friend to all, the foe, the friendless
I would be giving and forget the gift
I would be humble for I know my weakness
I would look up and laugh and love and lift

The Ragger's Creed, the teachings within the program and the sacred rag ceremonies, and the incredible friends who I shared this journey with all guided my choices as I navigated the rocky terrain of adolescence, and served as a powerful, clear touchstone when I fell out of alignment. I can honestly say that I would not have turned out as well as I did without this invaluable experience. For that reason, this week I tithe to YMCA Camp Loma Mar, who taught me what it really means to be a follower of Christ and kept my eyes on God when I was an angry young feminist raging against organized religion.

Summer 2000

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