Friday, August 18, 2006

Gold, Frankincense & Hair

I stood and watched as a gentleman measured 12" of my daughter’s beautiful blonde hair, gathered it into a perfect pony tail and cut it off. He bound it gently with a rubber band and laid it on a stone altar. I and the 100 other witnesses sang a song and said a prayer. Several other young women stepped forward and the act was repeated. Soon the altar was covered with a dozen Locks of Love in an array of lovely colors and textures. The tender soul holding the scissors had to stop - he was sobbing.

We had all gathered for a week in Kingston Springs, TN at a campground called Bethany Hills. We were participating in that age-old Christian practice known as church camp. I was one of 10 adult counselors privileged to be part of the high school retreat that summer. Something life-altering always seems to happen at church camp. I suspect that many ministers and missionaries made commitments to their ‘life work’ based on camp experiences. I have thought that there could have been a verse somewhere in the first chapter of Genesis that read as follows: “And God said, ‘Let there be church camp; and let this church camp have uncomfortable bunk beds and bad food; and within this church camp there shall be a campfire and a large, open field for kick ball upon which mosquitoes shall breed and snakes shall crawl; and in the midst of the gathering there shall be placed a rugged wooden cross with rough-hewn benches around which shall be scattered old hymnals and Bibles; and to this sacred ground will be called teenagers from all walks of life prepared to eat s’mores, swim and make wooden key chains; and the entire encampment shall be shrouded in the Spirit of Heaven Itself and it shall be for all time a place where I Am shall visit my young people and they shall sing songs and memorize verses and learn to love one another; and verily, there was church camp.’”

The sacrificial ordeal of the hair-cutting continued into the night until 35 girls and women (and a few young men, also) had contributed to the offering. This generous collection would be delivered to an organization that would, in turn, take the necessary actions to fashion wigs and hair pieces for children who had lost their hair during battles with various illnesses - mostly cancer. Tears continued to fall throughout the evening. Some were crying because they were parting with such a precious part of themselves. Most, I’m certain, were crying because of the meaning it would have to the final recipients.

The checks I’ve written in my life, for the purposes of doing good deeds, added together, multiplied many times over do not approach the benevolence I witnessed that evening. A spirit would be lifted, a smile returned, a dignity restored. Locks of Love, Locks of Love...


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