One of my favorite things to do as a kid was to climb trees.
From first grade to sixth grade the most consistent place you’d find me (When I disappeared, which was all the time!) would likely be up in a tree. Until fourth grade it was all about hanging out with friends (literally) and seeing how high we could climb or if we could be quiet enough that adults would walk by and not notice us. When we got a bit older we got more brave and would try to jump from tree to tree. It was a place where I learned how far I could push myself as well as if I could trust myself as I explored various trees.
But in my later elementary years I discovered the trees could be a wonderful place to be alone. They became a place to perch and listen to birds, watch squirrels, and one of my favorites… read books. I remember reading Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn and Shel Siverstein poems and everything by Jules Verne in trees. It was high in a pine tree in my back yard that I discovered that a book could take me somewhere far from home in the space between my ears.
My childhood wasn’t filled with horror but it wasn’t a parade of awesome either. Like a lot of families today– we had our messes. And for whatever reasons hanging out in trees and loosing myself in a book (or later, in a video game, or at the golf course) was a form of respite or escapism from the hard realities of my situation. While escapism is probably not the best way to deal with everything, disappearing from a place of disorder to one of order was healthy.
As I work with emerging adults who have lives strikingly similar to my own experience I wonder what their places of respite are. I’d like to think its our youth group or times when we’re together doing something fun. But more likely, they are off to their own set of trees, wherever that may be, to find sanity in chaos.
What was your place of respite as a kid?
How would you discover the place of respite for the students in your ministry?