Teaching our Kids - Meals of Simplicity by Colleen Earp
The bell rings. It’s an old cowbell, but it does the trick: the campers come running into the dining hall for another meal together. That bell clanking means something warm and delicious is waiting inside for each camper group to share: macaroni and cheese; chicken with mashed potatoes and greens; stromboli brimming with sausage and veggies; … rice and beans?
During the summer at Camp Hanover, we have rice and beans every Tuesday for lunch. We call it our Meal of Simplicity. Just rice and beans—no salad bar, no sides, not even our usual lemonade to drink, just water. Camp Hanover is the outdoor ministry of the Presbytery of the James in central Virginia, a place apart where hundreds of campers come to spend a week or two or more reveling in God’s creation and building relationships. We do everything we can to make campers feel welcome and comfortable, but we do not cheat on Tuesday afternoons.
The Meal of Simplicity is an opportunity for this community to reflect on what it means to have enough. We learn about different places around the world where people may only have access to rice and beans, if even that much. Counselors help guide campers through hard conversations about why people are hungry all over, from the farthest reaches of the planet to our own back yard in Virginia. We talk about agriculture, climate change, and justice. The conversations tend to continue throughout the day following the major impact of such a simple meal.
This is one small way we address our personal consumption habits in relation to the earth, not just the physical environment, but the people who dwell within it, too. These ideas permeate all that we do at camp as we live, play, learn, talk, and rest on retreat together.
Colleen Earp serves Camp Hanover and the Presbytery of the James as the Director of Youth, Environment, and Service Ministries. She is a YAV alum, a geographer, and an M.Div. student at Union Presbyterian Seminary.