A three-legged stool never wobbles. Each leg works to support the seat and share the weight placed on the stool. It’s a simple design, employed by Kirchenwald’s Back Country Outpost campers, that produces some truly impressive pioneer-style furniture. But if you think the wooden stools are the only product of the furniture making activity, then you’re missing some of the truly remarkable moments at camp.
This summer, I worked with the Intermediate Back Country Outpost to build their camp-craft stools. The camp provided the group with rough-cut blocks of wood and enough thick branches to serve as legs so that each camper could have a stool of their own to take home at the end of the week. Using only hand drills, saws and a tenon cutter, the campers cut all the joints necessary to assemble the stool. It’s hard work, as anyone who’s participated in the project will tell you.
It was a hot Tuesday morning when we started working. Each camper chose a block of wood for the seat and rummaged through a pile of branches on the ground, selecting three similarly sized pieces for the legs. With only three drills, not everyone was able to get their own stool going right from the start. A few minutes into the project I saw one boy starting to get particularly restless as he waited for his turn with the tools. Turning one of his stool legs in his hands, his fingers brushed against the nubs where smaller branches had been snapped off. Eager to get his hands on a tool, he walked over to our construction table, picked up a small saw, and proceeded to cut the nubs off the branch until it was smooth to his liking. And that’s when it happened. He looked up from his work and announced, “If anyone wants me to cut the extra stuff off your legs, bring them over to me.” It was an incredible moment in the life of that group- a moment that might easily be overlooked if you’re not paying attention. A simple declaration that held so much more meaning than the words appear to be saying.
Some of the other campers in the group carried their legs over to the boy as he energetically got to work. Another boy, noticing his cabinmate struggling to drill a hole, offered to take a turn working on the stool. A group of girls teamed up to hold stool legs steady as another camper worked to shave the tenons. And the air became filled with the sounds of singing, as campers rewrote the lyrics of well-known songs to include lines like “The drill bits for the stools go round and round.” The whole atmosphere of the project became one of cooperation, support, and joy.
These are tremendously special moments at camp, but they’re far from unusual or rare. It’s in these moments that real growth happens and teamwork and community become more than something we just talk about. They become the values that we live. As Christians we’re charged to live in community with one another, loving God through our love for one another. At camp, we’re encouraged to practice that calling in a place where we’re nurtured and safe. Camp is a place where we see the lessons from Bible study and the messages in worship come to life in the actions of our campers and staff.
And so, each person in that group left camp at the end of the week with a completed wooden stool. A sturdy, three-legged reminder of a moment when we grew closer to being the best versions of ourselves. Because, really, that’s what camp’s all about.