On the first day of camp Opal [not her real name] walked in, looked around, and announced that she knew she should have brought her Kindle.
“That’s not really necessary,” I told her. “I have a lot of books here you can read, plus there are art supplies, journalling supplies, domino blocks, games, and puzzles.” She rolled her eyes.
At the end of the day she asked me if I did any other camps. “Yes,” I told her. “I run a camp called Red Sails to Capri.”
“Red Sails to Capri sounded so boring,” she said rolling her eyes. “I mean, all you do is read one book for the whole week.”
For the record, in Red Sails to Capri we read through the book by Ann Weil in one week and did activities based on what we were reading. We built model sailboats and raced them in rain gutters, mined for Herkimer diamonds, journeyed into Secret Caverns, and visited the Fenimore Art Museum. The camp has filled up quickly both years that I ran it. I didn’t argue with Opal though. She had already made up her mind about it and besides, it was a moot point. Red Sails was past.
Her mother was 20 minutes late picking her up. “Traffic was awful,” she said as she rushed in.
The second morning, Opal walked in holding Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke. “This book is 544 pages long,” she told me. “When I finish it, it will be the longest book I have ever read.” Having said that, she flopped on the couch and stretched herself lengthwise on the cushions.
“You need to do a journal page first,” I said, pointing out the photographs I had printed from our outing the previous day. “Choose a photograph to put in your journal and write a few sentences about what we did.”
“Do I have to?” she asked, rolling her eyes.
“Yes,” I said.
She sidled up to me later when we were picking blueberries. “Do you know why I’m reading that book I showed you?”
I confessed that I didn’t.
“Joe Brill [not his real name] – he’s this kid in my class — he’s never read a book that long,” she confided. “When I finish it, I’ll have beaten him.”
I understood Opal better and pitied her. She wasn’t reading to be transported. She was reading to fill a hole.
Her mother was 20 minutes late again. As Opal frumped around our room, waiting, I suggested that she write about our day.
“I hate writing,” she announced. “Just because I like to read doesn’t mean I like to write.”
“Often people who love reading are good writers,” I told her.
“Not me,” she said.
“C’mon, get your stuff,” her mother said without even glancing at me. No hello. No good-bye. No sorry-I’m-late.
On Wednesday, Opal flopped on the couch with her book again. I prodded her to create a journal page.
“I started an even longer book,” she said. “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It’s 896 pages long.”
“Do you like the Harry Potter books?” I asked.
“I’ve only seen the movies,” she replied and she pressed her lips together as if she were trying to stop talking so much.
“I’ve only read the books,” I told her. “They’re wonderful.”
“I already know what happens so I don’t need to read them,” she said. “This one is the longest one. 896 pages.”
Mother — 25 minutes late. “I can’t believe she doesn’t apologize,” Helen said after they left.
On Thursday, I asked Opal how Harry Potter was going.
“I only got to page 2. It was boring.”
“I don’t like picture books,” she told me every day as I pulled out the Caldecott award-winners I had chosen to read aloud. “There aren’t enough words.”
“A picture is worth a thousand words,” I told her, “and these have beautiful pictures in them.”
“I like real words,” she said.
Opal is just a little girl, 10 years old, but she is as abrasive and rude as a person who unapologetically keeps people waiting. Every day.
She loves to tattle. She loves to complain. The world is boring.
This morning I read a prayer by Charles Foucald —
O Lord, grant us faith
the faith that removes the mask from the world
and manifests God in all things;
the faith that enables everything to be seen in another light;
that shows us the greatness of God
and lets us see our own littleness;
that shows us Christ where our eyes see
only a poor person….
I stopped and reread those last words. Lord, I prayed, could You show me Christ where I see only an impoverished child?
Because Opal is as impoverished a child as I have ever met.
My 20+ hours with Opal this week will be only a drop in the ocean of her life. She won’t remember them. They won’t change her.
But they can change me. Inside, where I bristle at the rudeness and fail to see it in any other light.
Lord, help me to see Christ in Opal.