Childhood hunger strikes fail to initiate change but perhaps define a life

After listening to a story about summer camps on NPR, I found myself thinking back on my summers spent at Yawgoog Scout Reservation in Rockville, Rhode Island. They were by far some of the best days of my life.


But instead of telling stories about the near-perfection that was summer camp, I found myself telling a friend about the meals at summer camp, which were not always great.

Two stories that I told today:

1. On Wednesdays, Scouts were required to bring a letter or postcard for their parents to the dining hall in order to receive a meal. Angry about being told what to write, I refused and skipped Wednesday dinner every week for my entire summer camp career.

2. In an effort to improve the quality of the food at camp, a boy named Chris and I decided to boycott the meals and spent almost an entire week, eating only bread and butter and drinking milk and water.

As you might expect, the food did not change as a result of our bread-and-water strike.

Nor was it ever as bad as we claimed. Boys can be so stupid.

My Scoutmaster (Chris's father) was also smart enough to allow us to suffer rather than putting up a fight and forcing us to eat.

It is a lesson that I have brought to parenting and teaching:

When a kid decides to make his life difficult out of spite and obstinacy, let him suffer.

When I told these stories to my friend today, he had two comments. He said it just like that. “I have two comments.”

1. "It’s sad to see how little you have grown since childhood."

2. "When someone asks you to describe yourself, tell them those two stories. That will sum you up nicely."

I'd like to think I’m a little more layered than that, but he has a point.