Lessons from a family campout

Some mathematical recreation from a recent trip to Garner State Park:

Five families times 3.6 kids per family equals 1 heckuva good time.

The sum of sweltering heat, record drought and threatening wildfires is still less than the fun of the Frio River.

A few days in nature has a disproportionately greater didactic impact than an equal amount of time in civilization.

Just outside the circle of comfort lies a geometric spread of shapes unrepresented by the squares of urban life.

And so we packed up the mini-vans and SUVs and travelled west through spirited towns like Bandera, Sabinal, and the ambitiously-named Utopia.

The Frio wasn’t full but it wasn’t empty. The fish, all be they smaller, still swam. The skunks scavenged. The Rangers fibbed (a bear and multiple mountain lions had been seen in the area). The sun shined as drought’s serendipity for campers and construction contractors alike.

From the weekend in the woods comes a series of lessons that the city can’t as easily teach.

1. We’re all in this together.
Twenty-eight people shared a commercial refrigerator for four days. To be overprotective of your OREOs was to be disappointed by the hunger of man. Happiness derives from a generous heart and a firm faith in God’s ability to provide.

2. A little dirt won’t kill you, though it may endanger your perfectionism.
Watching my offspring crawl into sleeping bags with filthy feet previously rocked my sanitized world. I was convinced they would awake with shingles. When they didn’t, I also mustered the courage to let them play in stagnant water.

3. Talent includes a bike-riding three-year-old.
Our Saturday night talent show featured jokes, skits, songs and tricks. But no act was more pleasurable to watch than a little girl with a big smile riding her training-wheeled bicycle across a mess hall “stage.” Giftedness is all around us, if we have the perspective to enjoy it.

4. If you didn’t remember it, you don’t need it.
Contemporary culture blurs the line between needs and wants. Camping offers an easy distinction: Your necessities are those items you remembered while packing. Your wants are those you remember as you’re driving to camp. For us, clean underwear made it in. A box fan did not. We survived.

5. Nature has a rhythm. It’s best to live by it.
The river flowed lowly and slowly, but constantly. The squirrels dropped acorns on the tin roof each morning. No part of creation strives to do more than it was made to do. If a tireless God rested, if his son regularly escaped to the hills, perhaps so should we.

6. Old habits die hard.
On the way home, we weren’t in the car two minutes before one brother requested the radio. Shortly thereafter, another brother asked to play Angry Birds. Once home, this five-year-old asked to go to the retailer he affectionately refers to as “Toys 4 Us.”

Without ready access to rocks and rivers and trees and hills, plastic becomes the coin of the realm. We slide it at the checkout and with it we turn our 2-car garages into Smart Car garages. The clutter buries the camping equipment and often our inner peace.

But a long weekend at the river reminds us that nothing levels mood swings quite like a rope swing.

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