20BK (that's 20 years ago, before kids) my husband and I were working with the church youth group. We were the senior high coordinators. Back then, the youth program was run entirely by volunteers. All in all, we did alright.
There was one teen in the program who had a hilarious and heartbreaking personality. Hilarious because she had a fast, sarcastic, sometimes vicious wit. Heartbreaking because so much of her personality was drawn out of the tragedy of her life.
She invented a lot of clever, biting sayings during her years in youth group. One of them was "Thanks, you're cool." This phrase was delivered with much sarcasm and was used in situations when someone offended or annoyed her and she wanted the perpetrator to know how much she "appreciated" it. It was a more acceptable version of, "Up yours!" Of course, you could also use it to express only mild annoyance with someone you actually liked ... the '80s version of "whatever."
As you can imagine, she delivered this line quite a bit among a group of teenagers who thrived, as most teens do, on dissing one another.
I remember on one mission trip we went on, Stefanie was determined to win the "happy camper" award. She could be a real pill ... downright grumpy. So one of the other adults invented the "happy camper" award to offer as an incentive for good attitudes. It only took one day of someone else receiving the "happy camper" award for Stefanie to move into action. For the next 24 hours, she embodied the epitome of cooperation, sacrificial giving and good spirits no matter what. She pasted a smile on her face and declared repeatedly with much determination, "I'm going for the happy camper award." She would volunteer to do something and then sing out loudly, "...cause I'm a happy camper!" To tell the truth, I can't remember if we caved in and gave her the award or not. I do remember that the "happy camper" in her disappeared the next day.
I see Stefanie every so often now. She's a single mom, in her early 30s I think. Her daughter is adorable and clearly the center of Stefanie's universe. It is endearing to see. Oh sure, she still flashes much of the unique personality that made her Stefanie. What else would you expect?
I wonder if she even remembers "Thanks, you're cool" or the happy camper award? Perhaps I'll ask her the next time she makes an appearance. Or not. Either way ... what can I say ... 20 years later I'm still thinking about that happy camper.