I like to think I live a nice life. I own a cozy, 3 bedroom home in a quiet neighborhood in the suburbs. I have a wife I care about deeply and a 9 year old son who is my world. I enjoy my job as an accountant, and I'm well recognized in the community. I can confidently say I greatly enjoy living and appreciate all that I have earned. I only wish my entire life had been like this.
You see, throughout my teens and early adulthood, I suffered from severe anxiety issues stemming from an experience in my youth; one that nearly ruined my life. I had done something that haunted me for nearly 15 years. It was only after 3 different psychiatrists and many sleepless nights that I was able to forgive myself and learn to live again. Fortunately, my memories of those days are cloudy, and the scars have long healed. I will now try my best to recollect the events that unfolded that summer of 1978 as best as I can.
My memory is a bit faded, but I distinctly remember various things in my childhood. I remember playing little league baseball, drawing my favorite super heroes to tag on my wall, going on bike rides to the corner store to buy candy & baseball cards, and staying out late on summer nights to play "jailbreak" with my neighborhood friends. In addition to all of these things, I was also a first year boy scout. I remember going to the elementary school auditorium every Wednesday after school dressed in my uniform.
In a troop of about 15 kids my age, I learned all kinds of things from fire safety to wildlife preservation. As a kid who grew up miles away from any forests, the lessons seemed incredibly abstract, yet entirely fascinating. I had never been camping before in my life, and the picture these lessons painted appealed to me greatly. Needless to say, after hearing about that year's 2-week long summer retreat, I was determined to attend. My parents were quite protective over me (they still are) and they were a bit concerned because I had never left home longer than a day or two, but after days of persistent bugging, they reluctantly agreed to send me.
That July, I was shipped off to Roaring Run Boy Scout Camp located in Boswell, PA only about 2 hours from my home. Coincidentally, it is still a summer camp, only under an entirely different name and affiliation. As we drove up the beaten gravel path, I remember looking in awe at the endless rows of trees and the rustic cabins on either side of the road. We came out to a wide clearing with all of the main buildings of the camp, and I noticed my troop leader in the distance among a handful of other troop leaders organizing their scouts. After my parents spoke briefly with my scoutmaster about various specifics of camp, my mother gave me a kiss on the cheek, and then they were off. I could hardly contain my excitement for the week.
We were paired up with several troops from neighboring towns because only a small amount of us showed up from each troop. We placed all of our belongings in our cabin, "Blue Ridge," one of the cabins I saw as I drove into camp.
Afterwards, we returned back to the main field and slowly got to know each others' names by playing various games. I quickly got to know just about all of them, but one in particular stood out to me. He was small; a lot smaller than the rest of us had been. He had frail limbs and messy blond hair, and the buttons on his shirt were not evenly buttoned. He hadn't said a word since he got there, and I noticed a few of the scouts from his troop were pushing him around a bit and picking on him during the games.
For the sake of anonymity, he'll be known as Michael. Taking the game at hand very seriously, I soon disregarded this bullying and continued on. I did notice that by the time dinner rolled by, several scouts from the other troops started picking on him as well.
That night, all the scouts on camp gathered to a bonfire located just past the main field in an outdoor auditorium of sorts. After reciting our honor code, the head counselor stepped forward and informed us about all the great activities ahead of us. There was swimming, canoeing, rifle/bow shooting, scavenger hunts, hikes, competitions, and nights under the stars all waiting for us, and I was ecstatic. After a speech on our core responsibilities as boy scouts to the environment and community, we were dismissed to our cabin for the night, a 10 minute walk from the main field. Our scout masters had forgotten something back at the main camp, so they left to go retrieve it.