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#20948 Annie Vernon Chapel Talk

A woman who inspires me is Bethany Hamilton. Bethany is a professional surfer who lost her arm to a shark attack when she was only 13 years old. In an instant Bethany’s life was changed forever – however – Bethany embraced this change. Bethany worked to find a way back to surfing, even with one arm, and managed to become an incredible athlete. In her book, Soul Surfer, Bethany wrote “I’ve learned life is a lot like surfing. When you get caught in the impact zone, you need to get right back up, because you never know what’s over the next wave.” 

An impact zone is the spot where waves are most likely to break and surfers are at their most vulnerable. Right now, we are caught in a bit of an impact zone. Every day the world around us is changing. One day we were all going through our typical day to day lives, and overnight it seemed we got caught in an impact zone and were knocked off our boards. While this is frightening and discouraging – Bethany suggests that this is our chance to rise above. We need to get back up and ride out the bumps because you never know what’s going to be over the next wave. 

There have been many moments in my camp history when I was caught in the impact zone, and found beauty beyond the next wave. When I was a camper living in cabin Ark I went on my first overnight hike. While the weather started out bright and sunny, as soon as we got to the top of the mountain and set up camp – down came the rain. Soon rain turned into pouring rain – and pouring rain turned into thunder – and thunder turned into lightening. When I pictured my first ever overnight hike – this wasn’t what I anticipated. But even though we didn’t get to make s’mores near the campfire like we had hoped, we sang songs while dancing in the rain and played cards in our tent and shared funny stories until we fell asleep. We had an experience that I will never forget. When we came back to camp the next day we were still smiling and talking about all the fun we had despite our rainy overnight experience. When I look back at that day it is one of my favorite memories of being a camper. 

The coronavirus has certainly been another “impact zone” in my life recently. When the virus struck I was in the middle of finishing my master’s degree, which largely relied on working in elementary schools. I lost my job planning and hosting activities for college students on my campus. I had to move out of my apartment with my best friend. And all of this left me feeling lost, helpless, and unsure. While these feelings have not completely faded – I have looked to the inspiration of Bethany Hamilton during this time. 

Okay – so I’m in an impact zone right now – and it’s a big one – but if I just keep treading water and find a way back on to my board – something incredible could be over the next big wave. And that has certainly been the case. Being stuck at home has given my family and I the time we never had before to train a puppy – and my lifelong dream of having a dog came true. My new virtual school schedule allowed me to become a substitute teacher online – which inspired me to move back to Rhode Island for work after I graduate. While there is so much fear and anxiety associated with the unknown – sometimes the unknown brings opportunities that you never would have had if the impact zone hadn’t hit. 

Perhaps my favorite quote from Bethany Hamilton’s book is “I don’t need easy, I just need possible.” Not being at camp this summer is not easy. It is not easy that we won’t get to belt out let the river run while sweating in Mimi’s Lodge. It is not easy that we won’t get to reach new heights on the giant swing. It is not easy to go another 12 months without Gail’s 7 layer bars. And while all of these things are not easy – they are possible. Kiniya teaches us to be strong, resilient, and to get back on our boards when the impact zone knocks us down, ready to embrace the next wave. I know it won’t be easy, but I know we can do it. Remember, at the end of the storm there’s a golden sky, and next year, ‘neath the pines, we will be stronger than ever. 

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