When I was eleven, just a few days after sixth grade ended, I spent a week at church camp. Nestled in the forests of the flint hills of south-eastern Kansas, Camp Wood was a rustic collection of cabins, a mess hall and a chapel that was really a theater. On Thursday night, we put on a play for the rest of the campers, a motley collection of twelve, thirteen and fourteen year olds. I was young for my age.
At that age, I was a curly-haired, mischief-making little smart-ass. One of the adults, who attended my church back home and would later be the drama teacher at my high school, selected me to play the lead of this production. I was cast as the devil. With a laugh, one of the ladies twisted some of my curls to form horns. No one objected to the decision to put me at center stage, although I was substantially younger than all the rest. It somehow seemed right to them.
I sat at a desk, stage left. Two girls of fourteen, one blonde and one redhead, easily the most beautiful girls I had ever been near, sat by me, my evil minions. The campers filled the chapel, staring silently at me as the spotlight drowned my vision of them. I began to read my script as the chorus of crickets faded from notice. The girls stared mesmerized.
On stage right, a small group representing a church meeting, sat in illustration of my speech. I explained to the girls how a kind, thoughtful, wonderfully christian church could be led easily into the sins of the world, into pettiness and jealousy, into coveting and a terrible sense of worldly pride. Scene by scene, I destroyed the tranquility of the church until they were a snarling pack of heathens. Score one for the devil.
At this point, my blonde minion objected, declared my works evil and stormed off, leaving me with the much more compliant and sinful redhead. Good would fight on. I didn’t care, caressing my crimson haired harlot. Why should I care?
Applause and accolades followed, a celebrity that only lasted an hour, until the next camp activity filled our minds, a campfire or a service, a horseback ride or canoe trip. I would act again but never to such heights.
People who know me know why I tell this tale. My whole life can be seen in the microcosm of the play we performed at Camp Wood.