Why Are You Here?

fairview lake ymcaWillie called the Fairview Lake office to talk about his camp experience from 50 years earlier.  Although he retired to Florida he said he would be back in New Jersey for a visit and was wondering if he could come out to walk around and show his wife and son.  When the day arrived he was slow to remember the camp until he saw the dining hall.

Willie’s memories came back as he told about helping the cook peel potatoes, and then talked about his life-long job working with a food processing company.  He talked about one of the counselors named Moses, and how he would dance and cheer after every meal.  As he remembered how they used to sing about their cabin, all the pride came rushing back.

We went down to the lake and he reminisced about a giant snapping turtle he caught named Moby Dick.  How the camp doctor thanked him for catching this monster as he was protecting the other campers from possible incidents.  He talked about his lifelong love of fishing.  He talked about the snack shop and how he could still remember the treat he enjoyed every afternoon.  Then he mentioned his counselor, Marshall.

On the last night of Willie’s stay at camp they celebrated Christmas in July complete with lights, tree, and a visit from Santa Claus.  Everyone was there, all the cooks, the doctor and the entire staff team.  He talked about how he remembered the big Christmas gift event and how excited he was to actually receive a present, just like every boy there.  Willie lived in an orphanage and never celebrated Christmas before.  He saw all the other boys get their gifts and run from Santa.  When it was his turn he approached with a plan to grab and go but Santa called him by name and motioned to slow down.  Willie sat on Santa’s lap and noticed that something about him was familiar.  Inquisitively he squinted into Santa’s eyes and saw Marshall.  He gently pulled the white ‘beard’ and revealed the true identity of his hero.

Willie didn’t understand all of what has happening, this was all so new to him.  “Why are you here?” he asked.  “Because I love you, Willie”, Santa/Marshall answered.  It was the first time he remembered anyone ever saying those words to him.  He looked around at all the adults in the room and one by one thought, he is here because he loves me, and she is here because she loves me.  He didn’t remember the gift that he received from Santa but he said he never forgot the answer to his question, ‘because I love you, Willie’.  That was the greatest gift he would ever receive. 

As I turned I saw his wife and his son crying.  They had never heard the Santa story before, but for the first time they understood a little more about their dear husband and father.  “We always wondered why you were such a loving person and now that we found the source, we understand a little better”, his son said.

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