By Audrey “Sunshine” Monke
One of our treasured camp traditions is reading to campers each evening at bedtime. We adopted the tradition more than a decade ago, because we realized how calming it is and how much even our oldest campers enjoy it. I also know from my own experience how a love of reading comes from being read to and how, with our media- and achievement-focused culture, reading is sometimes going by the wayside these days. There is no better opportunity to get back to reading “real” books than when we’re unplugged AND have more downtime during the summer.
We keep a camp library of good read-aloud chapter books, as well as several Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies. Some counselors also bring their own childhood favorites to read to their campers. This summer, one of our oldest boys’ counselors, Bambino (Cabin #28), selected Jon Gordon’s The Energy Bus to read to his 14-year-old campers. He’s on his third reading, and by the end of August, he will have read the book four times to all 40 of the campers he will have worked with this summer. I really enjoyed the message of The Energy Bus when I read it a few years ago, but I decided to download the audio version and listen to it again on a recent long drive. With my current middle-aged memory, I couldn’t quite recall the key points of the book, only that I really liked it. After listening to it again, I immediately went to the website and printed out “10 Rules for the Ride of Your Life” to share with our leadership staff at our Monday morning meeting.
The Energy Bus is an allegory with a powerful message about the profound daily impact of a positive outlook on life. I would never have thought about reading it to or with my teenage sons, but it’s actually the exact right kind of book for their age group. In the story, the central character is having a bad day, which is representative of his falling-apart, negative life. He’s feeling terrible at both work and home. One day, with his wife unavailable and his car tire flat, he is forced to take the bus to work. That one day turned into two weeks during which the bus driver (Joy) and the other energy bus passengers teach him the “10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy!”
Each day, he learns a new rule and applies it to work or home. Then on the next day, he reports his results to the energy bus team. By the end of the story, as you can imagine, he’s managed to turn his life in a better direction. He’s also learned how much impact he can have on those around him (his family and work team) by changing his own attitude and behaviors.
What a powerful message to share with people of ALL ages! For teenagers, I’ve felt for a long time that one of our cultural problems is that we often make them feel useless. They go to school and sports and often have no responsibilities for others. When teens don’t have a job or volunteer area and have few responsibilities at home (because parents feel they’re too busy with school and sports), they can, I believe, start feeling like they have no purpose in life. Understanding how they can be positive leaders and ambassadors of positive energy wherever they are is a powerful message for teens to hear.
This morning, I checked in with Bambino’s campers to hear what they’ve learned so far from listening to him read The Energy Bus. Here’s what some of them had to say:
“I learned that you should say something and that no one can fill the needs that are left unsaid.”
“You’re the driver of your own bus.”
“You can get your bus wherever you’re going but others help you go faster.”
“It’s encouraged me to be more positive.”
“If something bad is happening, you can change it by changing your attitude.”
“Sometimes the worst things in life aren’t that bad and can lead to something good.”
This is some profound wisdom from 14-year-olds, who will head home from camp tomorrow with a bus ticket from Bambino inviting them to hop on their own energy bus!