Never…Ever…Give…Up…

It has been almost two years since I published a post on my blog.  Not that I haven’t written.  I have more than a dozen drafts of posts I started, wrote, polished, but for some reason, didn’t publish.  Sometimes I feel that what I have written isn’t for public consumption.  Sometimes what I have written is just a rant, that after I have typed it out, I feel better and decide not to share.  But I have to publish this post.  I have to share with you one of the most exhilarating and powerful experiences of my life.  Bear with me, because there is some backstory I must share first.

Five years ago I was asked to serve as a camp counselor at Wesley Acres Camp and Retreat Center just north of Valley City, North Dakota.  I had never attended any sort of camp in my youth, and a good friend “talked” me into it.  That camp changed my life in many ways.  I experienced the joy of true youth fellowship.  I learned the power of camp to influence youngsters’ lives.  I fell in love with one of the most beautiful places on Earth.  And I met three incredible kids.

Caleb and Logan Olson were two of my very first campers ever. They were much smaller
then, and their hair wasn’t near as good. 272116_10150258927683664_3362213_o But their personalities, spark, and heart drew me to them.  The two brothers, only eleven-months apart, were inseparable.  They always had to out-do each other in the water games, playing four-square, and in the belly flop contest.  (Logan won by default).

266983_10150258928623664_1939427_oCaleb, the older of the two, was clearly more outgoing, confident, and social.  Logan was just a bit more shy, but never one to back down from a challenge, he was always stride-for-stride with his older brother.  And together, the two of them left a very strong impression on my as my first year as a camp counselor at WAC. 411832_10151030139508664_320517524_o

The next year, the brothers were back at Wesley Acres for another week of rambunctious hyjinx, competitions, and driving the counselors nuts.  This year, they knew the ropes.  This year, they knew the camp.  This year, they knew me better, and I really got to see these two boys really shine.  Caleb had begun to grow into a strong leader.  Driven, introspective, 178033_10151030140033664_218937781_ocharismatic.  Logan had found his personality.  Thoughtful like his older brother, but more quirky.  Equally introspective, Logan’s charisma came from his goofiness, his heart, and his pure joy at living life recklessly.

Despite these two boys growing up and developing different personalities, I saw that they were growing closer as brothers.  During a time when sibling rivalries and competitions can become heated, these two had managed to maintain the fun in their one upmanship.  They were best friends.

The summer of 2013 saw me back at Wesley Acres leading yet another Walking on Water 1071293_10151759453848664_473008262_oCamp.  And the blessings of the Olson boys continued, but it wasn’t Caleb or Logan at camp this year to bring joy to my life.  Little known to me the tiny tike who was around to pick up his older brothers, Tanner, the youngest Olson boy had signed up for my third stint at a WAC counselor.

If you could bottle the goofiness and disarming charm from Logan and the charisma and beguiling smile from Caleb, you would have Tanner.  Outgoing, adventurous, personable, daring, and a little bit of trouble, Tanner filled in nicely for his brothers at camp.  Tanner never backed down from a challenge, and when confronted with conflict, Tanner was the ultimate peace-maker, even though the other participants were older.

From the moment I met the Olson boys, I knew they were special.  Each one, individually, was a truly unique, genuinely exceptional young man.  Together as a team, they were/are nothing short of extraordinary.  10481646_10152543089643664_7154041983676761782_o

S.O.u.L. and Adventure camp of 2014 saw the return of Tanner, a year older, and even more personable and charismatic.  Tanner has an unmistakabl10498518_10152543094133664_1678802217507295698_oe ability to gravitationally pull people to him. His innocent smile. His gentle demeanor.  His kind heart.  Tanner practically invites others to follow him simply because he is so kind and fun to be around.  Despite being an a combined camp of middle and high schoolers, Tanner stood out as one of the leaders of the camp.  The nature of the camps themselves were challenging and meant to cause a little discomfort to induce learning and adventure.  For some, it was too much.  For Tanner it was his time to shine.  Tanner stepped into the role of encourager, helping others overcome their fears through his genuine concern and heartfelt support.  10498122_10152594135953664_6438292901575273113_o

Later that same year, I counseled Walking on Water for the fourth year.  In past years, I
had invited a pastor, leader, or other speaker to come share their story with the campers at the end of the week.  It’s kind of a break from the regular counselors, and an opportunity to introduce the campers to new kinds of role models.  I invited Caleb to come, spend a day or two with the camp, and share his experiences with camp, and how he “took camp home.”  As expected, Caleb rolled into camp in his ghettoed out minivan and was extraordinary.  He was honest, compassionate, strong, caring.  His message was one of heartfelt love for others.  And the campers loved him.  It would be almost two years before I would see the Olson boys again.  And so much would change…

Eight months after Caleb left Walking on Water at Wesley Acres, he was involved in a life-11150939_10153296346625941_657372437145202243_nchanging accident while snowboarding with his friends and family in Red Lodge Montana.  Caleb crashed while snowboarding and was left paralyzed from the chest down.  But in true Olson fashion, his brothers and family surrounded him with the amazing love, compassion, and determination I had witnessed in him and his brothers.  Caleb and his family worked tirelessly on his recovery.  They have adjusted to their new normal. And they have continued to be amazing.

On December, 21 2015 I messaged the boys’ mom Kim about their plans for President’s Day weekend.  I had an extended break from school and was thinking about driving to Bismark to surprise the boys and hang out for the weekend.  But my plans were dashed.  Caleb had requested to return to Red Lodge, Montana so he could ski “the same damn slope that almost killed him” according to his mom.  And that’s where the plotting began.  Kim came up with the idea of me joining the family on the ski trip and surprising the boys.  I took my personal day on the Thursday before President’s Day and drove to Rapid City to spend some time with my brother, then took off Friday to beat the family to the condo.  Through a series of miscommunications and crazy timing, the family beat me to the condo.  And the best laid plans of mice and men…well they change.  Instead of me sitting on the couch in front of a fire waiting for the boys, I was the one crashing the party.  Surprise Video

After catching up Friday night and some deep conversations at bed-time, we woke early to Brothershit the slopes.  What I saw inspires me.  These three brothers, are so special.  Individually they are incredible people, great young men.  Caleb is the drive.  Logan is the dedication.  Tanner is the heart.  Together they are unstoppable.  The way they care for each other.  They way they look after each other.  They way they love each other is so perfect.  They are so independent.  So individual.  Yet so connected, it is impossible not to recognize that they share the same spirit.  Caleb would coach Tanner.  Logan would carry Caleb.  Tanner would help both Logan and Caleb.  Not a word was said.  They just knew what to do and how to do it.

Of course Caleb conquered the mountain.  That was never in d12742587_10153901275178664_2775994261165437236_noubt.  He is an inspiration.  But he wasn’t alone.  Not for one second.  He has his angels.  One tall, gangly, goofy, and soft-hearted.  One stocky, quiet, sweet, and dedicated.  And they have him.  Strong, determined, courageous, and unwavering.  Individually they are unstoppable.  Together they are invincible.  And I will never forget how they have blessed my life.

Live Bravely…and Never…Ever…Give…Up.

One Love
One God
One Way

Jason

 

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~ by archangel66 on February 17, 2016.

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