Everyone in the room roared with laughter, and all I wanted to do was get out of there as fast as possible, but I couldn’t move.
I was on summer staff Red Rock Bible Camp, and one of the staff members was showing off his ability to perfectly imitate anyone’s way of walking – he had just imitated mine with uncomfortable accuracy, and there was something disturbing about seeing a bearded, six foot guy swinging his arms and moving his hips in a way I recognized immediately, even though I’d never consciously paid attention to the details of how I moved.
The rest of the summer staff in the lounge thought it was hilarious, but I sank into my chair, trying not to cry. I hated to be embarrassed and have attention drawn to me in a roomful of people. But if I got up to leave the room, I’d have to walk, and they’d all be watching me to see if he had gotten it right. I remember feeling trapped and panicky, trying to think of how to get out of there before I burst into tears.
Ben was also on staff that summer, and although we had become friends right away, he didn’t know me very well at that point yet, but somehow, he noticed how uncomfortable I was, and knew exactly how to help me. He quickly elbowed the guy beside him, they jumped up, grabbed my chair, and carried me out of the room.
They put me and my chair down right outside the doors to the lounge and ran back in, leaving me alone to flee to the safety of my cabin with no one watching.
A little girl living at Red Rock Bible Camp was lost, and no one had seen her for hours. She had followed her little brother into the bush, and taken a wrong turn. It was during Staff Camp a few days after I first met Ben, and the staff spent one terrible afternoon searching for her, walking through miles of bush and calling her name, until she was finally found later that evening.
The full time staff were all so busy dealing with the crisis, no one had time to serve dessert when we took a break for supper. The dessert cart was put out, and it was announced that we should all help ourselves while those in leadership left for an emergency meeting. It was a quiet meal as everyone forced down some food before heading back out to search. I remember looking up just in time to see Ben jump out of his seat, head for the dessert cart, and start serving all the other staff members. Nobody needed to do it – we could all just have gotten up and served ourselves, but as I watched him, I was thinking it was a really kind and thoughtful thing to do, caring for a group of people feeling tired and stressed.
It was my twentieth birthday, and my camp mailbox was filled with little notes and cards from my friends. There was a note from my new friend Ben – “If you ever need to talk, come find me, and whatever I’m doing, I’ll stop to buy you a chocolate bar and hang out for a little while.” A few days later, I went to find him to take him up on his offer. I remember finding him with the weed whipper, wearing safety googles and ear phones. He stopped what he was doing as soon as he saw me, and I said, “I think today would be a good day for that chocolate bar, whenever you have time.”
He said, “I have time right now.”
This weekend, it’s 16 years since we got married.
For some reason, I keep thinking back to that first summer I met Ben, and all the little snippets of memories I filed away in my mind as I got to know him. He was dating somebody else, and I liked a different boy at camp, which changed how we became friends. He didn’t flirt with me and do things for me just because he was trying to start anything – he was always just his kind, thoughtful self, and even though he hadn’t known me very long, he somehow seemed to sense exactly what I needed. He would drop whatever he was doing to care for a friend.
I kept thinking of him as a very nice friend for many months, until one day, it finally dawned on me that someone as amazing as Ben was exactly who I’d been trying to find. He wasn’t dating anyone anymore, I had finally seen the light, and suddenly his friendship was far more important to me than I’d realized.
I went straight to my dorm room and called him at his dorm room 20 minutes away, trying to sound terribly casual, mentioning I’d be in town later that week, and we should go for coffee. He sounded enthusiastic when he agreed, but I felt very awkward, because everything had just changed for me. I tried to act the same as I always had, but when he asked me why I was in town, and the truth came out that I needed a new battery for the answering machine in my phone, I think he started to get suspicious. He asked, “Couldn’t you have gone somewhere closer for that?!”
But I don’t remember what I said. I just remember him pouring milk all over his brownie, drowning it into a soggy mess, and eating it with as much satisfaction on his face as he still gets today.
We hung out “as friends” a few more times, and then it was his turn to awkwardly call, asking me out on an official date. It’s so funny to think back to those early memories, because in some ways, he really hasn’t changed. He is still always looking out for me, somehow knowing what I need, dropping everything he’s doing to help me out, ready to listen, wanting to make me feel better. If I could still eat chocolate, I’m sure he would bring me some all the time.
Thank goodness God finally opened my eyes all those years ago. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this for anything.