The Disastrous Salt/Sugar Roulette
I had an idea. We were pressed for time, but I had done it before. So not only was I confident in its safety, but I knew I had to top what had already been done. I stared out over the small desert of Dixie cups that lay before me and heard, “Mail time!” over my shoulder from within the sanctuary. I grabbed the large trey filled with a checkerboard of condiments and confections and entered through the doors to the “Oooo’s” and “Ahhh’s” of 140 nervous middle-schoolers.
Now don’t judge me just yet. Mail time is fun. And I had tested each type of cup out myself before bringing them onto the stage. The challenge was, in order to receive their mail, campers would randomly select a Dixie cup from the trey. Campers would then line up and drink a very small shot of white crystals. Upon their reaction, we would infer whether they had chosen salt, or sugar. One they downed the contents at the bottom of their cup, they were free to receive their mail. A challenge that has since been aptly names, The Disastrous Salt/Sugar Roulette.
The first few groups of challengers went by without a hitch, and to the delight of the audience, most of them were getting salt. Pre-teen after pre-teen jumped up and down in an unpleasant dance, scrunching up their face at all corners, trying to muscle down those few tablespoons. Up to this point, it had been fun, as mail time should be.
Now, you must infer that I say, up to this point, for a reason, and I do. The final challengers had either received numerous letters from their parents, or had received large packages. Seeing this, I knew I had to up the anti. It’s the daredevil inside of me. I took several cups and began to fill, most of them with sugar, but a few with salt, a little more then one fourth of the way full. It may have been close to half, I don’t know. But I had tried drinking a salt cup that was nearly half way full and had walked away unscarred, so I felt confident.
A small line of campers were called to the stage and they chose their cups. The countdown was rolled off the challengers went bottoms up. When I looked down the line, one face came up looking quite pleasant. Sugar. Then another. Sugar. Then all the way down the line. Sugar. Sugar. Sugar. All the way down until the last girl standing right next to me. She lowered her head with a look that would be used to scare little children. Salt. She did the ultimate dance of unhappiness, and actually swallowed the first mouthful, but there were at least two of three left in her cup. As she lifted the wrinkled cup to her mouth for a second go round, splat. She got sick, and she got sick all over the stage, in front of the entire camp. In that moment, two things ran through my mind. One, I felt so terrible because I had just embarrassed this girl in front of 139 of her peers. And two, I’m in big trouble.
The camper staff and I hustled to clean up the mess, and one of the girl counselors took the poor salt victim away to freshen up in the bathroom. Over the next five minutes however, a salt epidemic that rivaled the plague began to spread over the girl population of the camp. Girl after girl came to one of the counselors complaining of any number of symptoms, upset stomach, dry mouth, indigestion, and even blurred vision were among them. I was called to an impromptu meeting with the two heads of the camp staff.
“We have to say something, otherwise we’re going to get bombarded with phone calls tonight.” I knew I had to be the one to address the campers. The only problem was, I had no idea what I was going to say.
I grabbed the microphone as the other counselors quieted down the remaining campers who weren’t in the temporary infirmary that was now the bathroom. I stared out at a sea of unpleasant pre-pubescent faces and began to feel a little sick to my stomach as well. I uttered the most profound apology I could come up with at the time and leaned down to my fellow counselor Sarah, to ask her what we were had going on next.
“It’s you,” she said, “You have to finish teaching the opening number.”
There could not have been a worse answer. She would have been better off saying, “We’re gonna let every kid come and punch you in the stomach ten times as hard as they can.” The next item on the agenda was evening rehearsal, and I now had to teach 140 angry middle-schoolers an entire dance in only forty-five minutes. I had just betrayed their trust completely, and now I was going to ask them to follow me as their teacher and their leader? Yeah right!
Within the next hour, I learned two things. One, when God gives you a spiritual gift, it’s because sometimes you’ll have to use it in adverse circumstances. That’s why He allows His gift to work through you. It was not me who taught that dance, it was the Holy Spirit moving through me, there was no was I would have had the strength on my own. Second, I learned what true grace looks like. During that rehearsal, I watched as those campers set aside their present anger, and dove head on towards the goal that I had set for them at the beginning of the week, to work hard, and to get better. I watched God touch them place forgiveness in their hearts for me, those who were on the stage and the girls who were now in the infirmary. Even the original salt victim, she sent me a note later that night, telling me it wasn’t my fault and the she forgave me. The strongest, truest kind of forgiveness is given with words, and supported with action.
I stood before the camp at the end of that rehearsal completely humbled, brought utterly low, and God was lifted so high. I thanked them with tears in my eyes and let them know the lesson they had all taught me. That’s often the case with young people, they teach the most profound lessons about God, and the beauty is, they often don’t even realize it.