Saturday, December 17, 2016

My First Mentor Retires

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My Dad took a flyer when I was four leaving Mom with three little ones to care for and without visible means of support. Until I was in my teens, my male role models tended to be fictional ones from books. Through a series of providences, however, I wound up newly baptized and granted a summer job at Lone Star Camp as a $10 a week trash collector, janitor and shovel operator. God had his hand in it.

The camp director that summer was a lanky theology student and outdoorsman named Sam Miller. Sam was a revelation. I'd joined the church because God argued me into a corner where I had to give Him a chance despite my own misgivings. I'd grown up in a church town where, as Sam later told me, "Adventists are like manure. Spread 'em out over a space and the do a lot of good, but pile 'em up in one place and pretty soon it begins to stink!"

The first leader God sent to educate me was Sam. Most of what I've come to know about working with young people, I learned from Sam that first couple of summers. He taught me to be a lifeguard and put me on track to become a Water Safety Instructor Trainer for the Red Cross and eventually the camp's waterfront director.

Old Sam (we called him that because he seemed so much older than the rest of us for some reason) had an easy-going way with young hormonally-charged staff members. It is a tribute to Sam that no children were either drowned or created during the summer's he herded our motley crew. He once led our whole staff in hijacking a Six Flags war canoe and altering its course. We learned to ski, built pyramids, skied on canoe paddles and raided the kitchen. We also knew where the line was with Sam and we pretty much didn't cross it - at least not any farther than we could safely draw back for the most part. 


I learned how to lead by example rather than by bullying. I learned that a soft answer does turn away wrath and I learned that a leader is a human being too. Old Sam is retiring and I'm sure he will be missed by everyone he works with.  I'm also sure that some of our "leaders" never quite understood Sam either. I put leaders in quotes because those are the kind of leaders that Sam taught me not to become like.

For more stories about Sam check out my personal weblog about him. I hate to seek a good man go, but I'm pretty sure Old Sam will still be around making a difference in the lives of young people for a long time yet.

© 2016 by Tom King

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