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The Body Beautiful

Story ID:8366
Written by:Nancy J. Kopp (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Lake Geneva WI USA
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NOTE: This story was recently published in Chicken Soup for the Soul finding my faith book, now in bookstores and online. (October 2012)

At fourteen, I found faith. I didnít experience a dramatic event, nor did I witness a miracle that made me a true believer. It was far more simple but no less important.

In 1953, my best friend, Judy, and I counted the days until we would be off to church camp on the shores of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. This would be our second time, so we were seasoned campers. We traveled by train from Chicago to the lake resort area feeling so very grown up to be on our own, despite having to lug our heavy suitcases.

The rustic cabins had room for eight girls or boys. Ours rocked with squeals and giggles of young teens and loud music. One girl stood out. I thought of her as The Body Beautiful. At fourteen, Natalie had the lush curves of a much older girl, putting pencil-slim me to shame. Natalieís brunette curls and big brown eyes took center stage wherever we went. The boys watched her with open mouths and silent thoughts of conquest which made the rest of us envious, disdainful and sometimes angry. We watched her flirt wishing we knew how to do the same. Jealousy crept in and I embraced it.

At night in our cabin, Natalie shed her outer clothes and pranced around in her always- matching underwear. Her long, slim legs and bare feet seemed better than anyone elseís. The outfit I both coveted and resented most was her leopard skin bra and panties. It was exotic, looked absolutely great on her and left me feeling like a child of eight. My white cotton Sears specials could never stand up to leopard skin!

We swam, played games, had songfests around a campfire and attended bible classes all week. When there were only a couple days left, all the campers gathered for a night rally around a crackling campfire. The leader spoke eloquently about God and Jesus and what fully trusting them could mean in our lives. ďAccept the Lord into your heart,Ē he said, ďand youíll walk a path of faith forever.Ē

My brothers and I attended a protestant church and Sunday School, even though our parents never came with us. Iíd had the lessons at church, Iíd received my bible at the end of third grade Sunday School and my parents taught moral values at home, but I hadnít truly found my faith.

That evening, under the starlit summer sky, with the aroma of wood-smoke in the air, I felt something different, something new. My cabin mates and the rest of the campers and leaders were seated around the campfire. It wasnít the first time Iíd been in a group like this, but Iíd never felt such warmth and a love so strong that it made me shiver with anticipation of the good things ahead.

ďIf you accept Jesus into your heart, He will be with you always.Ē. The leader spoke in a soft but firm voice, and I listened carefully. ďMake a commitment,Ē he said, ďand youíll never walk alone.Ē

Emotion welled up, and I felt Godís love around me. Suddenly, faith was mine to have and hold as long as I wanted it. I closed my eyes and made a vow to repeat the Lordís Prayer every single day for the rest of my life. As a young girl, I didnít know what else I could do to show my acceptance.

We returned to our cabins and the magic of the moment was lost as we all got ready for lights out. Natalie cavorted in her leopard skin undies. I rolled my eyes at Judy as Natalie pranced in and out of our room. We finally got settled down for the night, me on the bottom bunk. My last thoughts centered on the campfire rally and the commitment Iíd made.

Early the next morning, just as the sun was about to make its appearance, I woke to shrieking and crying from somewhere in our cabin. Something was wrong, but I was afraid to get up and investigate. Soon, one of the counselors stuck her head into our room and told us that Natalieís mother had died during the night and she was leaving to go home. The tragic news shocked Judy and me into silence.

At fourteen, losing my mom had never entered my mind. Natalie had everything. She was the Body Beautiful, she had underwear none of us did, she had lush curves and boys drooling over her. But her mother was suddenly gone. I lay in my bunk and thought of my own mother back in Chicago caring for my dad and my two younger brothers. What would life be like without her? As I listened to Natalieís wails, tears slipped from my eyes and trickled down my cheeks. I clutched my blanket and turned my face into the pillow to muffle my crying. I suddenly had so much more than the girl Iíd envied. I had my mother and I had my newfound relation with God.

I silently repeated the Lordís Prayer to fulfill the commitment Iíd made the night before. The short prayer eased my sadness. I wanted to tell Natalie how sorry I was for her, but I couldnít make myself leave the security of my bed. Instead, I asked God to comfort her. I hoped Natalie would turn to Him in the days ahead, hoped that she had faith to hold her up. Iíd envied Natalie and now I pitied her and prayed for her, a big turnaround in a matter of hours.

Occasionally, Iíve wondered what happened in Natalieís life. Had she, too, made a silent commitment to God that long-ago night? Did her faith allow her to be strong as she went through her teen years without her mother? I hope so. Never again did I wish for matching lingerie. I had so much more.