My back stings from a sunburn. My arms creak, my eyes sting. I have scabs up and down my legs from itching my bug bites too much. My shoes are soaking wet and I have dirt in my hair.
And… my cheeks ache from smiling.
I am incredibly happy. Being the Youth Peace Advocate, this week and every week, has brought me so much joy! Sure, I feel the skin peeling off my back and I’ve had about 40 gnats fly into my eyes, but I wouldn’t want to miss a moment of it.
Yesterday, a boy asked me what my favorite color was. When I said “orange,” he smiled, took off his bracelet, and put it on my wrist.
The day before that, one of the campers made me a card and a peace wand. (How cool is that?!)
The day before that, I was initiated into “the order of the forks.”
Every day, I have 10 kids running up to hug me.
I have been on the receiving end of so much generosity and kindness this summer, it’s kind of hard to believe. The amount of love I have been shown could outshine the sun.
“Hi, I’m Laura Hay, the Youth Peace Advocate” have become my favorite words.
I’d like to say that I’ve grown up: that I’m super peaceful now and I don’t hurt anyone’s feelings ever…that I never get competitive and push people out of safety zones during capture the flag to tag them. But the people at the Missouri/Arkansas camp know that’s not true. This week I’ve struggled more than ever with the fact that I’m still human. I’m struggling to be more peaceful and to not let myself be overwhelmed by the little things. I wish I could just wave my “peace wand” and suddenly there would no longer be discord at camp.
But I can’t.
I still say the wrong things sometimes, but I’m getting better. I’m catching myself in times of harshness and trying to give people grace in theirs. I’m trying to be more honest and trusting of people. We like to think that keeping an idea in our heads or a hope in our heart, that things will change. But it’s a process and it takes action. I pray that I continue to practice peace in the days, weeks, months and years moving forward, and that I forgive myself when I’m not as peaceful as I wish I would be. I hope that in the future there will be more youth, eager to get sunburnt faces and sore muscles in the name of peace.
My cheeks hurt from smiling, and I’m ready for peace.
Peace and Prayers,
The Youth Peace Advocate (Laura Hay)