If it is our desire to change the mindset of people, then I believe that we should start by at least throwing out or rephrasing some of our most potent adages. In particular, let's tackle a phrase so easily spoken but never challenged.
'Hurt people hurt people" was a phrase I first heard used by Oprah Winfrey and I found it to be true. I recently heard this phrase used in another way by Patrice Davis. And if anyone has a right to rework – and redefine – the phrase, it would be Davis.
"My oldest daughter, Tamara Davis, was murdered by her best friend on their way home from a party," Davis recalled Wednesday. "They got into an argument and one thing led to another and her friend pulled out a gun and shot her dead right there in the car."
Many things ran through Davis' mind after the tragic encounter.
"But one of the most consistent things I kept feeling was that I'd wish I'd done more for her. I spent a lot of my time working, as I was indeed a single parent, and so I missed many opportunities to be a part of something like this," said Davis, referring to the Emmaus Road Summer Camp that now is her passion.
"I took Tamara to summer camps, but even as she would tell me that the camp was boring or the food was old, I didn't really get involved to that measure, as again it was a camp that looked after her as I worked."
I wanted to know how the Emmaus Road Summer Camp, which opened May 23rd, differed from the camp experience of Davis' daughter.
"Well, first of all, when they come in here, it's like they are home. We have breakfast prepared every morning, which sometimes includes hot fresh pancakes that we cook. Our lunches are healthy and our dinners are as well. But immediate following breakfast we have exercise. We have a young man by the name of Parnell, who graduated from Fisk University with a degree in Sports management, and he works with the kids hands on," Davis said.
"With those things out of the way, then our focus moves to the trips (one each day) and the exploration of as many great places that our city has to offer," she said. "We have already been to the Zoo, the Peabody Park, the Nature Center, the water park in Collierville, multiple restaurants and we have ridden the trolley to Maggie Moo's. We stay busy and effective on social behaviors as well.
Learning about kids
Davis is learning as she goes, with some of the lessons hitting home.
"Unfortunately a lot of grandparents are raising these kids. Many are paying for them to attend this camp and also dropping them off and picking them up. It's like the parent's don't have time for them any more," she said.
"These kids need love, they need time to be able to just hug on their parents sometimes. I spoke with one of the parents today and she said that her son likes to hug her a lot. She felt that since he was 10 years old he should have grown out of that by now. Truth is they need it. My daughter needed it. I didn't get it as a child and I didn't show it to my daughter."
Some of the parents of the students in the camp do stick around to see what's going on in the classrooms and where the children are playing. Safety is paramount, said Davis.
"We make sure that their little minds are growing because we do work on nouns, pronouns, adverbs and multiplication. And they are getting it. That makes me happy, it let's me know that I must do it again next year and the year after that," said Davis, who envisions opening a Christian Academy.
"I just want to help people. Our camp is only $45 a week and it's ten weeks long. The price is only $81 for the entire ten weeks, if you are on some form of public assistance. We are very reasonable. We are also centered on Christian values and the many examples of it."
That brought a question to mind.
"Being a good friend to someone could be classified as a Christian value and your daughter was murdered by her best friend," I said.
"With all of the culture, exercise and general education that you pour into these kids, it's noted and well received. But what do you teach them about friendships? What do you believe and share of your testimony? What good could you possibly have left?"
"I teach them that just because you love a friend, that doesn't necessarily mean that they love you, but you have to love them anyway," Davis said.
"My daughter and her friend had been friends since they were at least seven years old, but what did it truly mean. This is my way of giving back because I know that we have to catch these kids at a young age and instill love and truth in their hearts. We have to be better parents and be more involved with them, even in summer camps."
Davis has linked her camp to The New Testament. Emmaus, the camp's namesake, is an ancient town about seven miles outside of present day Jerusalem. In Luke, the 24th chapter, there is reference to Jesus appearing in Emmaus to two of his followers after his resurrection.
"Did not our heart's burn with us as he talked with us, was what one of the men spoke in Emmaus," I offered, making the connection to the name of her summer camp.
"Yes, exactly," said Davis. "And I want the parents to know that we hope that we are able to spark great things in their children's minds as they talk with and be with us over this summer."
At A Glance
• Emmaus Road Summer Camp, 3176 Kimble
• Ages 4-12
• Monday thru Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Aug. 3rd
• Contact: Patrice Davis, 901-201-0396
• Email: emmausacademy.org