Amazing Kids! Magazine

The Power of Story

By Zachary McClorey, age 14, Ohio


I remember walking into Sunrise Church with the dim stage lights pointing at us. The smell of dust from the room, the bleak appearance of the gym, and the number of people they put in that meager amount of space made me feel claustrophobic. On the morning of the Courage Retreat, I had a mindset that this day was going to be terrible and silly like all of the other school events. My opinion was that I was too cool for the events that would be going on. When my friends and I walked into the big room where the events would be happening, we went straight to the back corner, where there were brick walls. We were on the wood floor, and we could avoid everyone else. We noticed a lot of high school kids that we knew and that we thought a lot of. When they started the first activity, none of us were listening to what we thought was nonsense that the leaders were blabbering on about. After the first couple of activities were finished, the leaders split us into our small groups.

When my small group assembled, I figured out that none of my friends were in my group. This made me think even less of what we were going to be doing. However, my group leader was one of my next-door neighbors. He was one of the popular kids in the high school at that time. This perked up my mood a little. We started talking about the guided cards we had been ordered to do. I started to doze off as if it were 10:00pm on a Sunday night that I had spent playing three sports games. Our group was as quiet as a library. It stayed this way until the leader of the event got up and talked about events in his life that had shaped his character.

While most people around the room were probably sleeping, my full attention suddenly became focused on him. He talked about how it’s worse to stand by and watch your friends bully kids than to be the one being bullied. His voice sounded like this godly figure which could be listened to all day. His words really sunk into my mind. This led me to start participating in everything even if it made me look not cool to my friends. The next and final activity was sharing feelings, apologizing, and thanking others.

For this activity, we walked up to the center of the circle and placed a pebble into a bowl of water. Next, we would share our feelings, apologize to others, or thank others for doing something for us or just for being in our lives. To hear what these kids I’d been going to school with for the whole year had gone through, how others had helped them, or how they’d hurt others really affected me: I became a much better student, friend, and person. The room became silent between each speech, and you could smell and see the sadness coming from everyone’s face. I remember one of the kids apologizing to three of his former friends and asking to be friends again. Giant pools of water came pouring down his face, and he gained two giant tomatoes on his cheeks, but when he heard his friends coming up to help him and saying they forgave him, his face started to shine like the sun again. This made me want to go up and apologize to one of my old best friends that I’d mistreated, but I didn’t because I thought people would laugh and make fun of me.

Once that activity was over, we sprinted to our friends like they were being chased by bulls. Tears from all boys and girls were hitting the floor as if a swimming pool was being filled up for the first time. The floor was saturated with sadness. Running to our closest friends, we thanked them for everything they’d done for us. The room became filled with happiness and sorrow at the same time.

Then a kid that I’d never gotten along with just came up and hugged me. His hug felt like I had been chained up from head to toe as tightly as possible. For a minute, I was puzzled. As the firm lock between his arms and my body broke, he said, “Zach, I’m sorry for anything and everything I’ve ever done to you. I really hope we can stop fighting and being mean to each other.”

Now, a year later, he and I have not fought one time and are pretty good friends. This is one of the many friendships I was able to renew before they were gone for good. From then to now, I have become very thankful for being able to experience the Courage Retreat because it has helped many friendships of mine, made me a lot nicer, and played a major role in making me the person I am today.