One of my favorite views on the island of Kauai is at a campground called Makanalani. Schools and churches across the island use its lush grounds to teach subjects like science, the arts, and much more. During a camp right before the pandemic, I had the privilege of experiencing the effect of Makanalani firsthand. When I got there, the first thought I had was how exotic it was. Moving to Hawaii had been hard, and I had trouble making friends. The experience at camp gave me the confidence and peace of mind that I needed. After I realized I was surrounded by people who loved and cared about each other, my mood changed. I’m not usually one to gawk over beautiful scenery, but this was otherworldly. It looked exceedingly majestic with lush fields, tall trees, wild animals, and the long bunk house. My friends had been there multiple times, but I don’t think anyone could get used to the view. I especially remember the next morning. We had gotten breakfast, and my cabin mates and I were sitting on the balcony eating. We were all silent for a while, watching the tranquil view. It looked like a painting - everything so still and serene. I’ll never forget the feeling of extreme peacefulness that came with breakfast that day. I was really excited to go to camp. There was a lot going through my mind - I was anxious, excited, and apprehensive to go. The other girls I knew who were going to camp had gone since they were young. They had their own traditions, and I was scared I was going to be the new girl who didn’t know what to do and was always in the way. I got put in a group with some of my best church friends, and we had a ton of fun driving there. We were blasting music, talking, and just being together. Soon enough, my worries went away. I felt at home and comfortable around my cabin mates. When the rest of the church met up and got out of the cars, everyone was a bit more relaxed. Everything changed on the second night. After we did our nightly routine, most of the youth group were playing games on the balcony. It was late and we were blasting music. We were all very tired because we had come home from such a big day. The entire youth group spent the day at the beach on the north shore, got lunch, and talked to people and performed random acts of kindness until the evening. It was also our only full day at camp. The youth pastors had planned a packed day and we were all tired. Most of the kids were gathered on the balcony and people who I had never met were inviting me over to sit with them, play cards, or talk. I enjoy being around others, and I realized that others enjoyed being around me too. I always thought I was the kind of person who was annoying and got in everybody’s way. But after that night, I realized that I had put lies in my own head about who I was. We spent the rest of camp in a big group, and when it was all over, we exchanged contact information. Now, when we see each other, we greet one another as family. Because we are.
© Maggie Wilson. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.