Monday, August 20, 2007

“Me, Special?”

The other day, I received an e-mail, which said: “I've been rating your intellect, wit, drive, sense of humor, and other attributes. See where you stand, and rate me too with ‘Compare People.’” I immediately thought about a paradox that rages war in me every day. “I want to be seen and approved of by others, and I need to hear good things about my character. But, if the review is tarnishing, what will this do to my self-esteem? Shouldn’t my self-worth be worth more than the thoughts of somebody on the internet? After mulling this over for a few moments, I quickly, but carefully placed the unread e-mail in my ‘Deleted Items’ folder but thought, “I won’t empty this folder just in case I want to read what this person has to say about me.”

This summer I lived at Keats Camps, a camp for children, teenagers and families named for the island on which it is located. This was my seventh summer on staff and I arrived at camp anticipating another fantastic summer, though I had not set foot on the island in six years. It did not take long for me to realize that things at the camp I loved so much had changed. There were a few new buildings; the staff was both newer and larger than I had ever seen, and a new generation of campers would soon arrive. I was anxious about being able to adapt to these changes, yet excited about the new things that God would do.

My job was a challenging one. Though I had the responsibility of encouraging the staff with a devotional after breakfast most mornings in staff meetings, it was up to me how I would fill in the rest of my day. How can I keep my mind focused, work hard for my co-workers, my God, and not be a slacker? What is the most effective use of my time? These were some of my questions, and these were some of my answers.

Before most of the camp awoke, I would join a small group of cottagers and pray for the needs I knew. After staff meeting, I would walk around the camp, offering assistance in areas that needed it, and remained willing to share the story of what God had done in my life [see “Miracle on Fox Street”] during Bible study in the morning, or Crew Talk in the evenings.

Some days were busy, full of people asking for assistance, wanting me to share with their kids, or just to talk with them. Some days were empty, with little action, and it was hard to encourage anybody as hard as I tried. As the summer progressed, I did my best and asked God to fill in the gaps.

Two weeks in, I went home on a day off and brought a well loved children’s book back with me. I hoped to find time to read it to some kids, encouraging them in the way they viewed themselves and others.

“You are Special” by Max Lucado is the story of Punchinello, a member of a village of wooden Wemmicks made by a man named Eli. A Wemmick’s day consisted of judging the looks and abilities of others, rating them with either grey dots or golden stars. Because Punchinello was not ‘a good Wemmick,’ he quickly became overwhelmed with dots and the discouragement that comes with not being appreciated.

As the days passed, Punchinello became more discouraged. Things slowly began to change when he met Lucia; a Wemmick with no stickers of any kind. “That’s the way I want to be,” thought Punchinello. Punchinello soon worked up the courage to ask Lucia why she had no stickers.

“It’s easy,” Lucia replied, “Every day I go see Eli, the woodcarver. Why don’t you find out for yourself? Go up the hill. He’s there.”

Punchinello spent one more, lonely evening at home, watching the Wemmicks present each other with stars and dots. “It’s not right,” he thought and decided to meet his Maker.

As he followed Lucia’s directions into Eli’s shop, Punchinello was thunderstruck at how large everything was. He felt small and insignificant. “I don’t like this feeling,” he thought, “I must leave.”

But as if the bearded man behind the work bench could read his thoughts, Eli called his name. “Punchinello, how good it is to see you. Come and let me have a look at you.”

Punchinello turned slowly and looked at the large bearded craftsman. “You know my name?”

“Of course I do, I made you.”

Eli stooped down, picked him up and set him on the bench. “Hmm,” the maker spoke thoughtfully as he looked at the grey dots.

“Looks like you have received some bad marks.”

“I didn’t mean to, Eli, I really tried hard.”

“Oh, you don’t have to defend yourself in front of me, child. I don’t care what the other Wemmicks think.”

“You don’t?”

“No, and you shouldn’t either. Who are they to give stars and dots? They’re Wemmiccks just like you. What they think doesn’t matter, Punchinello. All that matters is what I think. And I think you are pretty special.”

Punchinello laughed. “Me, special? Why? I can’t do anything. I’m not a good Wemmick, Why do I matter to you?”

Eli looked at Punchinello, put his hands on his shoulders, and spoke very slowly. “Because you’re mine. That’s why you matter to me.”

Punchinello had never had anyone look at him this way before- much less his Maker. He didn’t know what to say.

“Every day I’ve been hoping you’d come,” Eli explained.

“I came because I met someone who had no marks,” said Punchinello.

“I know, she told me about you.”

“Why don’t the stickers stay on her?”

The Maker spoke softly. “Because she has decided that what I think is more important than what they think. The stickers only stick if you let them.”


“The stickers only stick if they matter to you. The more you trust in my love, the less you care about their stickers.”

“I’m not sure I understand.”

Eli smiled, “You will, but it will take time. You’ve got a lot of marks. For now, just come to see me every day, and let me remind you how much I care.”

Eli lifted Punchinello off the bench and set him on the ground.

“Remember,” Eli said as the Wemmick walked out the door, “you are special because I made you and I don’t make mistakes.”

Punchinello didn’t stop, but in his heart he thought, “I think he really means it.”

And when he did, a dot fell to the ground.

There are some things I felt like I did well this summer. There are also some things I know I didn’t do so well. When I came home, I had a number of dots and stars on my conscience, given to me either by myself or the people I spent my summer with, that encouraged or discouraged me about the past month-and-a-half.

You inevitably also have stars and dots that you have been given this summer. How do they make you feel? How important are they to you? What are you going to do with them? Whatever you did or didn’t do this summer, your Maker says “You are special, “because I made you, and I don’t make mistakes.” It may have been important or unimportant in the eyes of your friends, but your Maker says “what you did was special, because I worked in you.”

This blog is dedicated to the Keats Camps staff of 2007 where I learned again that whatever remark, phone call, comment or e-mail I receive that effects my conscience, my Maker says “You are very special,” and His words must take precedence.

I have just emptied my ‘Deleted Items’ folder.

“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”

Hebrews 6:10

Book Referenced: You Are Special ©1997 by Max Lucado, Crossway Books

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