This past weekend I attended a leadership retreat for the Greek council leaders at my University. Being on the Panhellenic council, I hopped on the bus, that left an hour late, and was on my way to the retreat site along with about 30 other students. Upon arriving, the camp grounds looked like…well, camp grounds. Just your typical NY, old school cabins, scenery, etc. The lake was beautiful, though. Before I stepped off the bus I said to my supervisor “I hope they don’t try and convert me to Catholicism.” He laughed. I hope he knew I was joking–about the conversion part…I knew no one would try and do it, but I like being Jewish…just sayin’. After being greeted by a sea of crosses, we arrived at our bunk to find the word JESUS plastered above each interior door. That wasn’t all, though, because there was a surprise waiting for me once I got to the room I was staying in. For on the window of the door to the room was a curtain. And on this curtain was “I ❤ Jesus” printed hundreds of times in different directions. Now I know which fabric swatch I should have used to make that pillow in 6th grade home-ec. Darn.
Later we went into the dining hall where we found more crosses, as we sat at a table looking over the lake-side, outdoor chapel with a giant wooden cross surrounded by wooden benches. Then there were some more crosses. Eventually we all picked up and switched cabins to one closer to the location of the activities we would be participating in. No JESUS or Jesus curtains hanging in this cabin, just a big ol’ cross situated on top of the cabin itself. But this one was much closer to the outdoor chapel so don’t you worry, I had a nice view of the wooden cross whenever I needed to feel the power of Christ. Oh, and there was a big Bible on the shelf in each and every room. The best part, to me, was when I would go into the bathroom there was, posted on the mirror, a placard with a prayer to say while “using the gift of water.” I found this fascinating. Yes, I know water is a limited resource and we often take it for granted, but I’ve never thought to pray for it. Perhaps I will start.
If you’re reading this you may think I have a problem with Jesus and the truth is I do not. He was once a member of the same tribe I belong to–the Jews–so I definitely don’t hate on him. But as a Jew I simply felt odd being surrounded by crosses and the word Jesus everywhere possible. While the retreat had nothing to do with religion, I felt myself feeling awkward because of what surrounded me. I didn’t know what to make of it all so I pretty much just kept talking about it–constantly. That didn’t necessarily make me feel any better about the situation, but I guess it helped me to cope. I know I probably sound like an idiot, but how would you feel if you were put in a place for 24 hours with symbols and words representing a religion you do not practice or believe in?
When all was said and done I got a lot out of the 24 hours I spent on the retreat. I learned to not judge a person based solely on appearance and that everyone is equal. I also learned that despite what our ancestors may have struggled with, we, youth of the present, have been awarded with such incredible opportunities in life and should not take any of them for granted.