My bunk was made up with my favorite purple blanket from home. I had my flashlight and my mess kit and a hiking backpack, too. But as I stood in my cabin doorway and watched my family drive away, I wasn't thinking about how much fun I was going to have at camp. All I could do was wonder how many hours were left until it was time to go home.
The sleep-away camp I'd chosen to attend was a camp for Christian Scientists, and over the next few days, my counselors shared a lot of ideas to help those of us who were missing our families.
We talked about being grateful to be at camp, and how we could look for something good to be happy about during each of our activities.
We talked about how God, our Father-Mother, was right there with us, even if our parents weren't.
Some of the other girls in my cabin found these ideas helpful, and I was glad for them. But even though I was having a good time at camp overall, my heart still ached every day with homesickness.
One night, four or five days into my camp stay, the director of the camp came to our cabin at lights-out to give us all good-night hugs. She wasn't my mom, of course, or anyone I even really knew. But something happened when she hugged me: For the first time since being at camp, I felt genuinely loved. That night, also for the first time, I fell asleep without crying.
That hug from the camp director gave me a lot to think about over the next few days as I played tennis, went canoeing, and picked a whole bucketful of wild blueberries. Because it had reminded me that God is Love. Ever-present Love, in fact. In other words, I didn't have to wait to feel love until I saw my mom and dad and sister again. I could feel it everywhere I went, and during whatever I was doing.
There are lots of verses in the Bible that talk about God being with us all the time, but one of them took on new meaning for me when I substituted "Love" for the words that stood for God.
Now the verse said: "Whither shall I go from Love's spirit? or whither shall I flee from Love's presence? If I ascend up into heaven, Love is there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, Love is there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall Love's hand lead me, and Love's right hand shall hold me" (Ps. 139:7-10).
It was so helpful to think that I couldn't be any place where Love wasn't. And as I thought about my mom and dad and sister, I realized this was true for them, too. It made me feel close to my family to think of all of us – held secure in Love.
It wasn't that I never felt homesick again after that, but I'd learned something important. What I was really missing was the feeling of being loved. So when I realized that I was always loved by God, I could see that I didn't have to miss anything! The next time I went back to camp, I was only a little homesick. And that faded fast as I stayed with the idea that my whole family, including me, was embraced in Love.
Finally, my third summer of camp, I wasn't homesick at all.
Today, when I think about this healing, I know I didn't just get used to being away from my family. I was healed when I trusted Love to love me. Some words from a favorite hymn by Mary Baker Eddy sum up what I felt at camp – and what you can feel, too. Wherever you go – this summer, and after – you can be sure of this: "[Love's] arm encircles me, and mine, and all" ("Christian Science Hymnal," No. 207).