Presence is a wonderful gift

christmas garland

I have returned many times, through long, detailed dreams, to the days spent away from the world at childhood church camp. Time there was set aside from typical daily life, measured in captivating moments and life-imprinting experiences, lining up in an entirely different way from other life events. 

It stands to reason, then, that one very special friendship born there continued to walk with me, summoned in the big moments of life, as though someone dear was missing with whom I wanted to share it all. 


On Saturday, my sister had her granary shop on her family farm decorated in beautiful Christmas themes and open for her loyal followers and friends to browse and buy. She called and instructed me to come, even setting noon as the time to be there. I was puzzled, but all my life I’ve had three big sisters directing me, so I knew to just show up. 

When I got there, Debi was busy as usual. She handed me a quoted price for an antique dry sink, and said, “While I finish this, could you show this price to the lady over there who asked about it?” 

I quietly approached the customer, her back turned to me. “Excuse me, my sister asked me to …” and the customer turned around. 

The minute our eyes met, my sister tells me I screamed with pure joy. It was my long-lost church camp friend, Kindra. Time melted away, and we were those two friends who had met and unexplainably clicked at Camp Otyokwah when we were 10. Though we exchanged letters for a number of years, we then lost touch and hadn’t seen each other in person since. 

Strong connection

After hugs and smiles and a few pictures snapped by my sister, we made the short drive to my house, and sat and talked endlessly. Happily, that fleeting but vibrant connection from childhood remains strong. The two of us share so much in common, most importantly each married to a good man with whom we’ve built happy lives. 

Connection to God and family remains a priority for both of us, living close to parents and siblings in a rural home community we each love, helping whenever there is a need. 

Church camp, we both agree, formed us in a way that simply going to Sunday School as young children hadn’t fully reached. The divine, sacred experience made our lives deeper, richer and better in immeasurable ways. 

As we later said our good-byes so that Kindra could start the long drive back home, my heart was full. This is what true friendship looks like, feels like, accomplishes. Through moves and last name changes and the march of time, Kindra searched for me. 

She then found a way to reach out to my sister, arranging this grand surprise on a cold Saturday, in spite of this being her own busiest season. Soon after the holidays, they will head to their Florida home. True friends find a way to show up, even when circumstances make this seem an impossibility. The gift of presence … what a wonderful gift!


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.



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