I can still remember the first time I overcame fear at camp. It was the summer of 1998, my first year as a camper at SCC, and the experience I am about to share with you has stayed with me and shaped a good portion of overcoming certain fears in my life through this day.
To set the scene, it was a typical day at camp, and the lunch bell had just wrung. If, for any reason what-so-ever anyone came into the dining hall after the prayer before any meal, they had to sing a song. On a stage in the middle of the Dining Hall, in front of everyone. I had decided that day that I was going to purposefully be late to lunch, just so I could stand up and sing a song.
I was nervous. Sure, I had sang songs and done plays all throughout my childhood, including appearances as Jesus in our grade school plays, or singing the solo during my Kindergarten graduation, but this? This was in front of 200+ people, most of which I had never known before, and they didn’t know who I really was; a chubby, awkward 11 year old that was more of a follower than a leader. I was fearful.
However, this was my turning point. This was the cataclysmic time to change what people thought of me. No longer would I be the shy little kid, but the outgoing man I was destined to become. (Fast forward a few years and I was still that same awkward kid, but I at least had the confidence to lead others.) I knew this was one of the best opportunities to overcome my fear. If it worked, excellent! I was on my way to a life of pride and fearlessness. If it didn’t? Oh well! Most of these people I didn’t know, and probably would never see again (SO untrue!).
So as everyone filed into the Dining Hall, I stood just out of view, behind the Chapel, and awaited for the prayer to end. My heart was racing, and I was sure I was going to screw up a line, or even worse, forget the entire song. My palms got sweaty as I rounded the corner and headed towards the swinging doors.
There is a unique feeling when there are dozens if not hundred of kids ages 8-16, and a staff of 17-25 year old’s that are all chanting “SOOOOO-LOOOOO! SOOOOOO-LOOOOOO!” at you when you’re 11. What little confidence I had started to wane and escape me.
Fear began to grip my heart and mind, doubt began creeping in every single step I took.
I got up to the little stage set up in the middle of the Dining Hall, and the entire place got as quiet as possible.
If I held that microphone up any closer to my chest, I was sure you could hear my heart racing.
I took a deep breath, and began my song…
“Juuuuuuuuuust sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful ship. That started on this tropic port aboard this tiny ship!”
As I started singing, something inspiring happened. The entire dining hall started either clapping or stomping along with the beat. What little fear I had was drained as I bellowed on through the song. When I got to the part saying the names, people joined in with either the names or the little flute parts for background music.
As I finished “Heeeeere on Gilligan’s Iiiiiissssle!” everyone erupted into cheering.
It was such an inspirational moment in my life, knowing that I could go and do something so silly as sing the theme song to Gilligan’s Island to a group of strangers and have them applaud me, I just was ecstatic. It was that simple to get over the fear of being on a microphone, in front of hundreds of people, and just belt out a song and have a blast.
For the rest of that week, people commended me on my singing, and I even did an encore with Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison, though I changed the words to “blue” eyed girl cause that’s what you do when you think someone with blue eyes is cute at 11.
That week, during the awards ceremony, they came up with a special award for me called the Canary Award for my excellent singing. I’m pretty sure it is still in a box with all of my other camp mementos, because that played a special part in my heart.
From there I’d go on to playing a lot of different rolls in musicals and plays, including the Pirate King in Pirates of Penzance, Jesus and then Pontious Pilot in the Passion of Christ for my Church, and even was the Drum Major my senior year in marching band.
Looking back, it is amazing that something so small and simple as purposefully being late to lunch one day could have such an impact on my life. If I could go back and relive that moment, I would cherish that moment for what it became for me; a gateway into a life of leading, having fun, and not caring of what others around me thought. At the end of the day, I was having fun, and I was going to spread as much joy as I could.
The next time you have an opportunity to face your fears, just remember to look it right in the eye, calm your heart a little, and start to belt out “Juuuuuuuuust sit right back….”
Question: When in your life did you overcome a fear, and how has that shaped you through today?