Some call what happened initiation. Others think of it as hazing. To me, it was bullying. The kid was tossed into the bunkhouse unawares and told to run down the middle aisle. On either side of the aisle were the bunks, upper and lower, of the 30 or so other campers who were there for a week of fun and games and praise and worship.
So the kid ran down the middle aisle like he was told. And as he did, he was struck repeatedly with belts. He was hit on the torso, the chest and in the backside more times than he cared to remember. The only thing that exceeded the pain of being struck was the humiliation that came with it. In fact, that stung a lot worse and a lot longer than the belt marks.
At the end of the "beltline," as it was fondly called by his aggressors, were a couple of bigger kids waiting in the bathroom. By this time, the kid was crying. And when he got to the bathroom, the two bigger kids took the new kid, lifted him up and buried his head in a toilet filled with urine.
The bigger kids had a good laugh about the fun time they'd just had. For the rookie, the few moments in the aftermath disappeared from his memory; maybe because it was just too embarrassing to have to walk back through the beltline after the fun and festivities were over, knowing that he was on his way to the camp office, humiliated and embarrassed enough to call home and say,
"Please come get me."
"Why?" the kid's mom and dad would ask during the new kid's call for help. And so he told them, and two hours later the kid's parents had made the trip from their Dallas-area home and picked up their urine-soaked, belt-licked, born-again son.
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The parents, like the good parents they were, informed the camp and the officials at the church, and everyone prayed that the incident would be forgotten and forgiven after the offenders were duly tongue-lashed and finger-scolded.
But the aftereffects of the incident never really subsided. The kid was never embraced by the group of kids his own age in the church, most particularly by those who swung at him and filled the toilet bowl with their surprise at the end of his long run through the bunkhouse.
The kid was scorned and never part of the "in crowd" and he often found himself sitting alone in church or with his parents while the other kids his age bonded together in their own pew. He would, in fact, spend nine more years at the church as he waited for his 18th birthday, but God never really seemed to be there with him. Not sitting next to him, at least.