C haim walked quickly through the main dining room, headed for the small staff dining area.

There was a certain tenderness in the air, the raw emotion of children lifted up by spending time with their parents, mixed with the ache created by their parting. These boys had all raised determined faces to parents and tried to fight off tears and swallowed hard and said, ‘Nah, I’m fine, thanks for the cereals. I’m good, really, thanks for coming.”

Deep down, none of them were really fine, Chaim knew.

Or maybe they were fine. Perhaps it was just he who was bummed out, the sight of Penner and Siegel and what seemed like a stream of young, loud guys walking around in a tight little huddle, being shown around the camp.

Chaim had finally approached Penner and asked what was going on.

“Nothing is ‘going on,’ ” Penner had said, imitating Chaim’s tone. “This guy, Siegel, and his group are big players in real estate and they’re thinking of buying the camp and building a bungalow colony.”

“Seriously? Today? You have to show these people the camp now, when all these kids are having a carefree, happy day? They can’t just enjoy the day?”

“Chaim,” Penner said, placing an arm on Chaim’s shoulder and relishing the role of being the rational, unruffled one. “What does one thing have to do with the other? This has nothing to do with the kids and their special day. Don’t blow things out of proportion.”

“It’s tasteless and you know it,” Chaim shot back. “Like the kids are enjoying and you’re busy selling their candy while they’re eating it.”

Penner frowned. “I don’t know what you’re saying, and I’m not sure you do either. That’s a weird mashal.” He started to walk away, then turned back, “To be honest, Chaim, I thought you would be a perfect partner for us. I respected you as a businessman, someone with seichel. You get the reality. I never imagined you’d be working against me.”

Penner had turned back to Siegel, who seemed oblivious to the exchange that had just taken place. “So, can we knock down that building and build a full go-kart track?” Siegel asked, and Penner had nodded enthusiastically. “Sure, a go-kart track is a great idea.”

Now, as Chaim approached Chananya Singer’s table in the dining room, he felt the familiar guilt at seeing the way Singer’s face lit up. He knew the younger man admired him and kept waiting for their friendship to blossom. Chaim felt like a fraud giving advice about the actual programming in camp; last summer, and the summer before that, he’d been advising people how to write their wills and avoid taxes while Singer was right here, working.

If Singer had challenged his right to an opinion and offered the occasional argument, Chaim might have felt better about it, but the head counselor’s easy, even appreciative acquiescence made him feel lousy.

“Okay, Reb Chaim,” Singer said, jumping up eagerly, knocking the table with his knee, and sending the tray of meatballs flying. “What do you have in mind?”

Chaim sat down at the table. “Chananya, tell me, what night activity do you have planned? I’m thinking we should do something special. The kids have got to be feeling down, no? Don’t you think?” (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 657)