I spent the last weekend at Camp Friendship, near beautiful Annandale, Minnesota. It's a YMCA camp with special equipment for youth with disabilities. They also have a ropes course and a "challenge course" -- something we participate in every year with our 9th grade confirmation class. So I spent the weekend roughing it with 13 ninth graders. And I began to think, "I'm too old for this...!" Friday night lights out was supposed to be at 12:01 a.m. Unrealistic, I know, for there was a time when I was a 9th grader, and I went to camp. Going to bed "early" was not on our agenda. In fact, I believe that one of our stated goals was to stay up as late as possible. So I decided to be a little lenient and not yell at them for talking ... at least not right away. I tucked myself into my sleeping bag, said my prayers and listened in.
I heard lots of laughter and attempts at mild bawdiness (and then giggling again). I was heartened that I heard nearly everyone's voice -- no one was left out. There was a conversation about a young girl (nearly two years younger than they were) who was already having sex with her boyfriend -- and what a terrible thing that was. I was glad for find out that they thought that 13 was too young to be sexually active. I heard one young woman talk a little about some serious worries she was having ... and finding support. And I thought ... this is just as important as the faith statements and the banners and the confirmation verses. There's something important about lying in the dark, and sharing joyful and scary moments, doubts and confessions.
Perhaps if we could spend a little more time in the dark, sharing our joyful and scary moments, we could make it through those times of doubt. The 9th graders are all together now, supporting each other, and caring about each other. But it won't be long before some of them will disappear. We've got to get them back to whispering their secrets in the dark ... at least once in awhile. And it would be good for us too ... to stop thinking we are alone in this world, struggling to find our way, to get ahead, and start whispering our secrets in the dark, and find out how many people are with us.