A Peanut and a Prize

Alexis Wilson has lived Young Life at every level — staff kid, club kid, work crew, summer staff and college leader, in that order. But three years ago, Alexis finally found the job in Young Life that, as she put it, is better suited to her sleeping patterns. Alexis joined committee.
 
Last spring, however, Alexis suffered an identity crisis and started acting like a Young Life leader at a committee function designed to raise camp scholarship money for kids.
 
The scene was the city art festival in Fort Worth, Texas. The backdrop was the Young Life booth where kids, leaders and committee members were selling a festival guide for scholarship proceeds. The main character was a 90-pound freshman football player (that’s soaking-wet weight). And the teaser for the mini-drama read something like this: Alexis found a peanut and, in that peanut, found a prize. Here’s an edited firsthand account from Alexis:
 
Getting to know Peanut 
I worked one afternoon with a freshman kid named “Peanut.” I asked Peanut if he was planning to go to Frontier Ranch. He said, “I’m trying, if I can afford it.” Before I knew what was happening, I was handing him my phone number. I told him, “If you need to earn money for camp, call me.”

Two weeks before camp, Peanut picked up the phone. He had earned $100, but needed $350 more. I was able to land him a job cleaning the office where I work.
 
Then I made him a deal. If he earned the money to pay for camp, I would give him spending money. Two weeks later, camp was paid in full, and he was packing for the trip.
 
A kid for a week
When I picked him up to take him to the bus, I’ve never seen a grin that wide. He told me he hadn’t slept in two days. He was so excited. I handed him his spending money and told him how proud I was of him for earning his way.
 
After a stop at the convenience store for bus necessities (pretzels, soda, chips, candy), we arrived at the high school. Peanut jumped on the bus and began introducing himself. I believe he knew every person’s name before the bus hit the city limits.

As I drove away, I began to cry and pray: “Thank you, Lord, that he gets to be a kid for a week.”
Peanut lives in difficult circumstances. He’s 15 years old, the oldest of five children, and his mom is 31. As Peanut packed for camp, the landlord was delivering an eviction notice. Peanut was upset, comforting his crying mother, and trying to find a way to help. At 15, he’s the man of the house.
 
Blessings all around
But for at least one week, Peanut was a kid at camp. When he returned home, we shared a celebration dinner in honor of his hard work and to hear about his fun week.

We sat for two hours, and he gave me the blow by blow, from every meal he ate to the games he played to the costumes worn by the villain, “Buck Eyes.”

I don’t think Peanut had ever been served before. I’m not sure he knew what it meant to be on the receiving end of a blessing. But he does now. On June 26, 2002, Larry “Peanut” Douglas entered the kingdom of God.

Looking back, it would have been much easier for me to pay his way to camp. But working alongside this child blessed both of us. He gained tremendous self-respect, earning his way.
He was exposed to a professional workplace and an industry he didn’t know existed. He loved meeting everyone at the office, and they embraced him. I told two people about Young Life and talked to one about Jesus because of Peanut’s presence. And even though my heart broke to see the pressures and pains this child lives with every day, his sweet spirit blessed me.
 
Alexis found a Peanut and, in that Peanut, she found a prize: Serving on Young Life committee can mean much more than raising money and securing funds. It can mean raising self-respect and securing the future of a friend.