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The sun was baking at the camp where we were all training. It was a Heroes’ Weekend in 2008. I was a member of the cadet force but never quite took it seriously; I just knew it would look good on my resume. There was a lot more ironing, push-ups and rationing of meals than I cared for, and looking back now I can admit that subjecting myself to authority has always been a sore point for me. Still, my initiation at the beginning of camp will be a cherished memory forever.
The signal was given – we were to fall in on the court for muster. It was about 8:30 am and everywhere I looked, I could see males in the barracks rushing to put together their “greens” (training uniforms). People jostled for the iron, polished their boots like there was no tomorrow, ensured that their beds were made and ran out of the room as fast as they could. I had poor knowledge of all this, having never really paid attention in any cadet meetings. I ironed as best as I could, hoped for the best and ran out to join the rest.
I fell somewhere between two people in a platoon. Was it my platoon? I had no idea. The officer in charge walked between the ranks and files, inspecting every cadet, giving reprimands and commendations where necessary as the sun scorched us mercilessly. Suddenly, he got to me. He looked me up…down…up…down…up again.
“Cadet, who put you together?”
“I did, sir!” I shouted in a full performance of confidence, having no clue how horrible I may have seemed in comparison to the prepared folk around me. His serious face notified me that I had failed the test. Miserably. I was ordered to run quickly in front of all the gathered personnel to a trash receptacle placed perfectly in everyone’s view.
“Jump inside that garbage bin right now!”
I hurried hesitantly to enter the rubbish bin, feeling my soul sink. I was about to be made an example of, and moved as quickly as I could to avoid the nightmare getting worse.
“Repeat after me: “Lord, please let the garbage truck come for me!” Say it loud!”
I repeated what he said three times, grudgingly, each prayer louder than the last. Few snickers could be heard among the ranks, but no one dared laugh openly lest they had to join me in my prayer duties. I wished the garbage truck would turn the corner at that exact moment and just carry me away.
After my prayers, there was a pregnant silence.
“From now on, your name will be “Rubbish!” the officer declared.
This was my initiation. From that moment forward for the next five days, I was only called by this name. It didn’t help that I wasn’t getting better at being a cadet either, so the punishments were lined up and waiting for me. Different officers took turns giving me pointless tasks, or berating me for calling them the wrong title, or something else that my younger self at the time would simply not have cared for. It was a trying time, but it taught me a lot of perseverance and showed the value of preparing myself for anything that may occur. I have to give thanks.
I didn’t stay too long with the cadets, but there’s no doubt that you can learn a thing or two there and build wonderful memories for life. When I’m not pushing myself hard enough or feel like I can’t manage a thing, I just remember being in a garbage bin in front of over a hundred or more people praying to be disposed of. After an initiation like that, you definitely find more scope and clarity.
P.S. The first sleep you get when returning from cadet (or any strenuous) camp = magnificent.
Blessings in abundance!