Have Yourself an Ambivalent Little Christmas


The Golden Age of Spam

Will the Real Renaissance Please Stand Up?

My Life of Crime

My Life of Crime, Pt. 2: The War of the Dandelions

Black (and Blue) Friday

Going Home

How Not to Celebrate a Holiday

Traffic Report Fall Down
and Go Boom

O, Holy Weekend

You Mean My Vote Actually Means Something?

Side Disorders

Lessons for Hurricane Preparedness as Taught By Example in Raleigh, North Carolina

You Mean My Vote Actually Means Something?, Pt. 2: Are They Gone Yet?

The Last Reality Show

It Builds Character

Sink the Flu

WTF (in C Major)

Intruder Alert

Kneel before Za

I Got Your Breaking News Right Here, Pal

Christmas in July...or April...or maybe even December


Why I Hate "The Little Drummer Boy"

It Builds Character

Imagine for the moment that you are a parent of a child that's around eleven years old. Imagine further that you love this child very much, and want him to grow up to be strong and confident. Imagine further still that you know about two dozen other parents of similarly-aged children who want the same thing for their child. How would you best accomplish that goal?

A group of such people recently came up with an answer to that question that I would not have anticipated: "By nearly getting them killed!"

It seems that there is this organization in a town not too far from where I live called "God's Country Outfitters". God's Country Outfitters specializes (so they say) in "outdoor adventure experiences" that teach leadership skills. These adventures accomplish this by subjecting people to experiences no kind person would ever suggest and no sane person would ever endure. At least, that's my interpretation of the things that comprise these events. Do they actually help anyone develop leadership skills? I have no idea, but that's because I'm a coward with no leadership skills. Furthermore, my idea of "adventure" is buying an album by a band I've never heard of without listening to it first.

In this particular instance, a group of twenty-four kids, ages 10-12, were taken on God's Country Outfitters experience called the "Survivor Challenge". The Survivor Challenge is described thusly on their website: "It's just like the show...well, except for the lying, cheating, backstabbing, and drama!" (I suppose it could also be described as being "just like a meat lover's pizza...well, except for the crust, sauce, cheese, pepperoni, sausage, bacom, and ham!") The website explains further:

"The Survivor Challenge starts with each team attempting to start a camp fire with no matches or lighters." No sweat...they didn't say anything about a butane torch, after all.

"Teams then move on to an adrenaline pumping round of paintball." Paintball, eh? I've never played it, but I think I can manage that one.

"After paintball, teams prepare to face their fear of heights at the rappelling and cliff jumping events. Participants will score points for their team if they can work up the nerve to rappel off a 60-foot sheer rock face cliff and jump into the water from a 30-foot cliff." Speaking as someone who is scared of heights, let me see how I can best word this: THERE IS NO FU— okay, that may be a bit strong. Let me simply say that if you expect me to rappel off a sixty-foot cliff or, worse yet, jump off a thirty-foot cliff, then clearly you don't know me very well. If you expect me to do it just so my team can get "points", then clearly you don't know me at all. Let the other team win the stupid competition. You can take your points and talk a long walk off a short pier.

In fact, you can do that while you take part in the next event. "Next, participants will test their paddling abilities in the kayaking challenge." And it is there that the trouble began for the kids. See, the rain that day had been heavy. So heavy, in fact, that the bridge where teams on this challenge normally set off from was actually submerged. Despite this, none of the adults — neither the parents nor the people running the event — thought it might not be a good idea to go through with this. This was, after all, a church group doing this. One of the stated goals was to draw the kids closer to Christ. If anything happened, well, they just got drawn a whole lot closer, now, didn't they?

According to the news report I read, soon after the kids set off the water rose several more inches. Then people got separated. Then the rescue teams came out. No, seriously: by the end of it the rescue effort had involved rescue teams from three different counties, the highway patrol, the national guard, and firefighters from the nearest big city. Fortunately, no one was injured.

The remaining planned event was an "adventure race", which involved a GPS and topographical map, a search for five control points, plus "compromising" a target with a bow and arrow and a rifle. I don't know if they completed this event. If any of the kids were like me, then I hope for their sake they didn't. If I were one of those kids, and I had just been through the experiences of being told to rappel off a cliff and then nearly being killed because the adults saw nothing wrong with having my first kayaking experience be on a flooding river, you would not have wanted to put a gun in my hands. My targets would be quite compromised by the time I was done with them.

Like I said, the kids all survived. And were I the sort of person who likes to give a positive spin to things, I'd probably say the kids are better for having had this experience (like Nietzsche said, that which does not kill us makes us stronger). However, that's not the kind of person I am. I'm willing to say this was a stupid idea and leave it at that. But not all adults are like me. In fact, the associate pastor of the church the kids came from actually said the following regarding the whole mess: "I'm sure that it was a great adventure for the children to see God's hand in their lives." Really. He actually said this. Forgive me, Mr. Associate Pastor, for asking this question, but: When the kids were spiralling out of control on that river and they saw the hand of God...what sort of gesture was that hand making, anyway?

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