how to build a boxsled and other lessons
Bursting from shaken-up cans, Seagram’s went spraying through the air and sprinkling down on unsuspecting heads. Disco lights began to dance on the snow, swirling round and showing up in brilliant spots of blue, red, and green. Songs from the speaker drifted up into a dark night sky, while glittering stars smiled down on a small group of high-schoolers celebrating on an icy lot behind the church van.
All weekend up at Hume Lake for winter camp had led to this moment. We’d spent most of our free time in a cozy little chapel, hot coffee in hand and duct tape, box-cutters, and scraps of cardboard scattered across the carpet. The Boxsled Blitz would take place the final evening. Elbow to elbow on hands and knees, we’d worked hard until then to see our grand vision come to life.
Coming up with an idea was no easy endeavor, as we had a reputation to live up to—historical champions, multiple times over. Thankfully, our church has no shortage of creativity.
Using only cardboard and duct tape per competition requirements, the plan was to recreate the RMS Titanic—a black and red paneled monstrosity, complete with smoke stacks and life boats. Halfway down the run, our cardboard creation was designed to break in half, sending a duct taped door holding two students—“Jack and Rose”—down the remainder. Despite vows to never let go, Jack would then fall off, sending Rose to finish the descent solo, whistle in mouth.
It was great fun. Our youth group students were excited about the idea, and eager to put in the effort to make it happen. First came the structure—a steady skeleton of folded up cardboard, fastened with layers upon layers of duct tape. It had to be strong enough to hold the eight students on board. Then came the cosmetic application of colored duct tape to the outsides, ever so careful to avoid creases and gain points for design.
As walls went up, guards came down. Working side by side, conversation flowed and bonds were born. Piece by piece the Titanic was built and subsequently, so were memories.
Sunday night we stood in the snow, frozen toes and full hearts, our anticipation for the event proportionate to the time and effort we’d invested. When the judges flashed tens and we finally made it to that moment of grand celebration, it was one of camaraderie and connection—one of those moments you feel proud to be a part of something, to belong. One that was only possible due to the time we’d invested.
I share this because it’s a fun memory, but also because I think it’s a lot like how it is with church, or communities in general. We all want those moments of epic euphoria, the highs that come from a sense of closeness and connectedness. We peer in when others have those moments, and feel on the peripherals. We might pinpoint the areas we think should improve, but the only way we’ll feel a sense of ownership and investment when that boxsled comes barreling down the tube run, is if we’ve contributed to its building—our thoughts, our ideas, our time.
The bonding isn’t birthed in the moments of celebration, but in the moments we’re side to side, imagining and strategizing and laboring towards a common cause. The bonding is birthed when we take a risk in sharing our ideas, in showing up, and in investing our efforts.
We all want to belong—we were created for it—and we all have a place. But moving from observation to integration doesn’t happen by accident. As lessons learned in building boxsleds would suggest, the best way to feel a part of something, is to invest a part of yourself in it.
If you’re Bay Area local and looking for a place to belong, come check out 3Crosses!