Vespers for these times… June 14, 2020

Sing:

Hark, the Vesper bell is pealing

O’er the meadow soft and green.

Nearer now and nearer stealing,

Soft it breaks upon my ear.

Jubilate, jubilate, jubilate, Amen. Jubilate, jubilate, jubilate, Amen.

First Words:  You will all remember the favorite rainy-day (or even sunny day!) evening program game, The Liars’ Club.  Or perhaps you prefer Two Truths and a Lie.  Both are fun-filled activities where the best camp story tellers (yes…that’s each one of you!) propose to convince your camp mates of some piece of fake or true news that happened in their lives.  You are good at it!  One reason for the good fun is that these games make it appropriate to tell a good tall tale (otherwise known as a fib or even a lie!).   It’s fun thinking about the truth in someone’s story and it’s fun to practice picking out the absolutely Impossible parts.  These special programs are all about imagination in action!!

 You will also all remember, less happily, the difficulty we all have these days in separating fake news from news to which we should pay very close attention.  In our complex world, it is time to think through how to find the real story from all those stories we hear around and about!  

Sing: “I would be true”, a hymn and BC song from the early days!

I would be true, for there are those who trust me;

I would be pure, for there are those who care;

I would be strong, for there is much to suffer;

I would be brave, for there is much to dare.

I would be brave, for there is much to dare.


I would be friend, of all—the foe, the friendless;

I would be giving, and forget the gift;

I would be humble, for I know my weakness;

I would look up, and laugh, and love, and lift.

I would look up, and laugh, and love, and lift.

A bit of Fun: Here are some stories from Camp Betsey Cox history!  Some are fake news and some really are facts.    Can you and those gathered with you today  figure out which are true and which are not?  As you consider each one, think about how you would go about verifying whether or not the statement/story is fake or real. 

  1.  Camp Betsey Cox opened in 1953.  There were only three cabins built by then, Killington, Mansfield and Pico.  Mrs. D, the founder, and her family, lived in Pico. The kids were assigned to a cabin “just because”, not according to age, since there were only twelve campers!  

  2.  Lorrie was a camper the first summer at camp and has never missed a summer since then.

  3.  Devri took a scuba diving course in Burr Pond.

  4. Dustin Hoffman’s daughter was a camper and he came to visit her on visit day.

  5. The hot tub in Ficklebump broke down in 2005.

  6. Prunes were served at breakfast one morning every week and you had to eat at least one.

  7. One summer morning, in a plot worked out between the two camp cooks,  all of Camp Betsey Cox walked silently to Camp Sangamon and ate the Sangamon breakfast before the boys were up.  The Sanga boys, men and women had to walk over the BC to eat the BC breakfast. 

  8. Sugarbush cabin  was once used as the camp infirmary.

  9. Camp Sangamon CITs once wrote letters of admiration to every single Betsey Cox camper and sent them by pond express.

  10. Water skiing was once an activity on our pond and Lorrie was the water ski instructor.

Sing: “Alice the Camel”, a camp song! 

Teach it to those around you!  Just what IS the real truth about Alice??

Alice the Camel has ten humps,

Alice the Camel has ten humps, 

Alice the Camel has ten humps,

Go Alice go!

Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. 

(Remember to shake it  for each of the “booms”!)


Alice the Camel has nine humps…

Alice the Camel has eight humps…

Alice the Camel has seven humps…

Alice the Camel has six humps…

Alice the Camel has five humps…

Alice the Camel has four humps…

Alice the Camel has three humps….

Alice the Camel has two humps…

Alice the Camel has one hump…

Alice the Camel has no humps…

Silly, Alice, you’re a horse!!             


STORY: “Liza Lou and the Yeller Belly Swamp”,  by Mercer Mayer, written in 1997

Liza Lou, a girl who grew up in the swamps somewhere in the deep south of our country,  In bayou or delta country is a camp heroine!    In 2008, long-time camper and staff member, Khadija Jafiya, gave the book to camp with the following inscription: “To the strong, smart, and bold girls of camp Betsey Cox. “   She would love that the story shows up in our Vespers!   The story is about Liza Lou’s gift as an imaginative story teller, and about how her stories saved her skin more than once, and for the good of all!     Liza Lou would be a winner at any camp Liars’ Club program!    Here’s her story, with some of Mercer Mayer’s words provided because…. they are so very perfect!


Liza Lou lived with her mama on the edge of the Yeller Belly Swamp.  Liza Lou’s mama loved  having Liza Lou share in getting done what had to be done in the family.   Liza Lou loved the adventures she always had on the way to do whatever had to be done.

One fine day, Liza Lou’s Mama said “Apple Dumpling, I want you to take this tote bag full of sweet potatoes over to Gramma’s house and cook them up for her.  She’s feeling a mite poorly.  But mind you be especially careful when you cross the Yeller Belly Swamp.”  And off Liza Lou went.  

She’d heard warnings recently that there was a “good for nothing swamp haunt” that had been hanging around.  And sure enough, soon after she had started off, for sure that old swamp haunt appeared from around the corner of an old shed.  That old swamp haunt threatened to snatch Liza Lou up and away, but Liza Lou, “strong, smart and bold”, said, “Oh, Mr. Swamp Haunt, snatch ME away if you must, but please, oh please, don’t snatch away my tote bag full of sweet potatoes.”  And the swamp haunt, thinking those sweet potatoes must be something special, snatched the bag clean away from Liza Lou. Further conversation between the haunt and the girl led to Liza Lou convincing the swamp haunt to take the sweet potatoes to gramma’s house, cook them up and spite Liza Lou while doing so.  And of course, gramma, being just as “strong, smart and bold” as Liza Lou, ended up scaring the swamp haunt deeper into the marsh forever more.    And Liza Lou?  She went home where she and her mama enjoyed their own sweet potato supper.

On another occasion, Liza Lou’s mama asked Liza Lou to pole her boat across the swamp to Auntie Jane’s house to deliver some huckleberry muffins and pick up some dirty laundry that Liza Lou could do.    Oooh…did those muffins smell good!  This time, Liza Lou and the muffins made it safely to Auntie Jane’s, without any unusual adventures.  But on the way back home….a wicked swamp witch leapt out of the cattails, scaring Liza Lou nearly to death!  The swamp witch threatened to boil up Liza Lou in her big cook pot—a perfect supper for a witch.  But…”strong, smart and bold”,  Liza Lou had in her arms that big bundle of dirty clothes she was taking home to wash up.  Liza Lou made up a story about the bundle having a sweeter, tastier baby in it, and the witch, being not so good in her eyes, snatched the bundle and threw it into the pot instead of Liza Lou.  The swamp witch WAS smart, however, and noticed that the brew in the pot did NOT smell like dinner!  She bent over to take a stronger sniff and when she did, Liza Lou gave her a very strong shove and into the pot she went!  Well…that water was mighty hot, so the witch leapt out and went shrieking into the cooler waters of the swamp, never to be seen again.    Liza Lou was pleased that the dirty clothes were now boiled up nice and neat.  She fished them out of the pot, packed them up and headed home for a nice dinner with her mama, with huckleberry muffins for dessert.

The rest of the story recounts Liza Lou’s highly exciting rendezvous with a “slithery gobblygook” who lived under the old swamp bridge and another with the very scary swamp devil.  The swamp devil was prepared to “jump down inside her ear and steal her soul away”.  SO scary!  But in both cases, Liza Lou was able to explain, cajole, and fool the villains into doing just what she wanted—to go about their own business without bothering her!,

Mercer Mayer ends the story with the following:

“As for Liza Lou, she skipped all the way back home to her Mother.  And from that day to this, no one has ever seen hide nor hair of devils, gobblygoods, witches or haunts in the YellerBelly Swamp.  And no one misses them, either.”

Sing: “She Sailed Away…. another camp song about swamp critters!

She sailed away on a lovely summer’s day,

On the back of a crocodile.

“You see”, said she, “I’m as happy as can be

While sailing down the Nile”.

The croc winked his eye as she waved them all goodby,

Wearing a happy smile.

At the end of the ride, the lady was inside,

And the smile was on the crocodile!


MORE WORDS: In a Vespers two weeks ago, you thought about which BC staff members had also worked at Camp Sangamon.  In the answers section, you learned (or confirmed!) that Elaine, Marcy and Kim had all done just that.  But you know what?  That was incomplete news!  In fact, Don Willis worked the most years at both camps!  Mistakenly, he was left off the answer sheet!  Sorry, Don!

Then last week, the Vespers included a very beautiful song, “From a Distance”  The author of the song was listed as Bette Midler, who in fact, sang this song all over the world, as did another favorite singer, Nanci Griffith.  But the author?  Not Bette Midler, nor Nanci Griffith.  The song was written by a woman named Julie Gold.  Oh, gosh.  A mistake!  A piece of fake news!  Ms. Gold deserves full credit for a song that has made a difference to people all over the world.  

Julie Gold planned to be a songwriter from the time she was in her early twenties.  She moved to New York City where dreams of that sort are most easily realized, though it is never easy at all, anywhere.  You all know that making a living while  hoping to be something else is very hard to do.  And so it was for Julie Gold.  She says that she earned money by “demonstrating vacuum cleaners, Mr. Coffees and toaster ovens.  I worked flea markets, as a proofreader, for a dentist and at a Venetian blinds factory”, all  while writing songs whenever she could make the time.  She also said,“I clung to my dream like a life preserver.  I knew why I was born, and no one could discourage me from reaching my mountaintop.”

Eventually, just before she turned 30, Julie’s parents sent her the family piano.  She remembers the day. 

“I took the day off work to be home when my piano arrived, and I remember how it glistened in the sun as the movers lowered it off the truck.  My piano.  My truest love and friend.  My confidante.  Back together again after all these years.”

Two days later she says,

“I sat down and ‘From A Distance’ just poured out of me.  On the one hand, it took me two hours to write.  On the other hand, it took me 30 years.  Pick whichever hand makes you happy.  I love them both.”

From this moment, her song took off and her dream of being a song writer was realized.  In 1991, Julie and  From A Distance won a Grammy.  

Now that’s the real news and it deserves to be told!  


Fake news can be the result of incomplete research, a mistake, or it can be intentionally put out for a wide variety of reasons, frequently in our times, for political reasons. It is so important that, as we move through our lives, doing the best we can to make the world a better place,  we work hard to know and to put forth real facts.  

To that end, here’s some helpful ideas: the Huffington Post is a news source that recently offered an article to its readers with a seven-point checklist  of things to do when you are trying to figure out whether or not a story is true.  The list is easy to remember, and it can help you figure out every story all the way up to the news.  Here’s the list:

  • Be skeptical.  That means that you should always wonder whether something is true before believing it!  Someone tells you that the best pizza in the world is made in New York City?  Be skeptical!  Wonder whether that’s true (because of course, WE all know that the best pizza is served up at Betsey Cox on Friday nights!)!
  • If the story you hear is really amazing, be especially skeptical!  Wonder for a LONG time!  One summer a camper saw her first shooting stars as she walked to the washhouse late one night.  She returned to her cabin and reported to the counselors that a meteor was going to hit the earth.  Fortunately, the counselor was skeptical herself and helped her camper learn to be skeptical, too!  
  • If the story you hear is a story you already are likely to believe, be very skeptical.

For example, if you believe that a Betsey Cox person is likely to win the Addison County Fair skillet toss, and you hear when you are there that there’s a tie in the contest,, you should start by being skeptical and you’ll be on the way to asking someone what really happened!  That’s how you get to the facts!

  • Think about where your story comes from!  One of my favorite camp legends is that there is a plug in the pond that the staff pull at the end of the summer so that the pond can be drained and cleaned over the winter.  Now really!  If someone tells you that, see if you can find out where that story came from and when you do, see if you would believe that person.  How would you check to see if that person should be believed!  There should ALWAYS be more than one source before you believe a thing!
  • See if the story is logical.  In the list of camp historical facts, do you think it is logical that Lorrie was a waterskiing instructor on Burr Pond?  Well…if you don’t think so, then use your other skills to find out!  Check your sources, be skeptical, be especially skeptical!  Is this logical??
  • Figure out whether the story is an opinion or the reporting of a fact.  If  the people coming up from the pond report that the water is freezing, do you have to believe that that is so?  That may only be their opinion.  Check it out for yourself!
  • Be careful and be sure that you become a believable person because you are careful with the stories you tell!  Build a good reputation for honesty!

Now go back up to the game about Betsey Cox history.  Go through the list of facts and use these skills to see if you agree with your first thinking about which are facts and which are fake news!  Your hint for today is that six of the listed stories are fact and four are fake.  Now figure out how you would find out which is which.  Practice your skills on these ten stories and you’ll find that it gets easier and easier to know what to believe!

Liza Lou’s story fits these Vespers because we can see how the use of a good story convinced the scary characters to believe untrue stories!  In this case we find ourselves cheering for Liza Lou to be convincing even though she was inventing stories as she went.  The lesson from the story, however, should not be that we should all practice making up convincing stories for our own good, but rather that well-told stories can become truth very easily!  We need to be mindful of that as we listen to stories of all kinds.  Use your critical thinking skills and make sure you find out what’s smart to believe!

Khadija Jafiya gave us a book to remind us that we are “strong, smart and bold”.  People with those qualities will be able to find out what to believe for themselves and might even be able to help others do the same.  It takes a little work and some practice to learn these important skills.  Have fun doing both!


Sing: Since this song was referenced, let’s sing it!  The Prune Song

No matter how young a prune may be, 

It’s always full of wrinkles.  

A baby prune is like her dad

But she’s not wrinkled half so bad.

I’ve got wrinkles on my face.

Pruny wrinkles every place!

NO matter how young a prune may be, 

It’s always full of wrinkles.

Same song…second verse….a little bit louder and a little bit worse!  (Oh, my!)

FINAL THOUGHT:

“The truth.”, Dumbledore sighed.  “It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution   -JK Rowling in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”

 

SILENCE

Jubilate, jubilate, jubilate, Amen. Jubilate, jubilate, jubilate, Amen.

 

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