I love camping.  We have a great tent, sleeping bags, and cooking equipment.  But what I love the most is the opportunity to find some solitude and be outdoors for several days at a time.  Having grown up in a camping family, I have been pleasantly surprised as my wife Laura’s family has gotten into camping.  In fact, they now have a family camping trip every summer in Vermont, where they are from. 

This past summer we tried a new campground on a beautiful lake.  We pulled into our campsite just after noon on Thursday and got our tent, tarp and outdoor kitchen all set up.  It was a great place under some majestic white pine trees.

Later that afternoon Laura’s family began to set up camp just to the south and west of our campsite.  Fifty-three of them arrived in all.  It was good to see her family again after about a year had elapsed.  Interestingly, the campers to our east and north started arriving about the same time.  First one Harley, then another, and another, and then some trucks until there were about fifty-five members of the Devil’s Desciples (spelled wrong intentionally) motorcycle club from Boston, MA, occupying the rest of the campground.  For four days our little campsite was surrounded on one side by fifty-three in-laws, and on the other side by fifty-five outlaws.  In fact the Devil’s Desciples consider themselves one of the 1% of motorcycle clubs that pride themselves on not being so law abiding.  They did their share of drinking, fixing their Harleys, and smoking pot.  In Vermont, possession of an ounce or less is not a criminal offence and, I guess, once you smoke the first ounce you can possess a second ounce…and so on.  Anyway, needless to say, we got to smell our share of second hand pot smoke for four days.

Now you might think that being a tent sandwich between so many in-laws and so many outlaws could ruin a vacation.  We certainly did not plan this.  However, our son Jesse resurrected the weekend by showing hospitality to everybody all weekend long.  He was very comfortable to be with his cousins by our campfire and to be with the Devil’s Desciples at their picnic table.  In fact, he was so accepting of the Devil’s Disciples, that when we were about to leave, they gave him an honorary member’s t-shirt: a black T with an ugly white skull and bright red letters saying, “Devil’s Desciples.”  There was no giving it back.  They even threw in a black neoprene beer cooler with the same skull on it to show how much they loved Jesse’s hospitality.

I wish I could be so hospitable.  Oh, maybe you could simply chalk it up as being Jesse’s Down Syndrome that makes him so accepting of others.  But if is it Down Syndrome, I think I would like a little of it!  I often ask, “How can I be as attractive to and accepting of others as Jesus Christ was?”  I think the first step is seeing people as Jesus sees them, not as enemies, or outlaws, but people created in the image of our Heavenly Father and for whom Jesus came to earth.  

If the outlaws, or the in-laws for that matter, got a glimpse of Jesus Christ that weekend, it was not through me, unfortunately, but through my son, Jesse Ryan, a man after God’s own heart.