I had never been to that camp in New Hampshire, which was a two-hour drive from my home in Boston. But I had been hired to tell stories in the week before the Tisha B’Av. I knew I would tell at least one story involving the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

My car was unreliable, so the morning of the performance, I rented a car. After loading it with my portable sound system, costume and a sack supper, off I went. It was a hot and humid August day, and I appreciated the air-conditioning in the car. But I’m short, and although the car was the smallest on the rental lot, I still had to crane my neck to see over the steering wheel. By the end of the drive, I had a stiff neck and the beginning of a headache.

I dragged my equipment from the parking lot to the camp office and awaited instructions. As my contract stated, I had arrived more than 30 minutes before the performance. I needed time to change into my costume, set up and test my equipment, and make any necessary changes to the hall or stage.

After waiting about 20 minutes outside the locked camp office, a harried senior counselor ran over to me. “So sorry you’ve had to wait in the sun,” he said. “This afternoon was our camp’s annual tennis tournament, and we ran overtime. The campers won’t have time to shower and change before your performance.”

Who wants to perform to an audience of hot, sweaty, exhausted kids? But, hey, I was a pro. I smiled and said, “That’s fine, I’m sure everything will work out.” I followed him to the building where the program was scheduled. As we entered, he flipped the light switch. Nothing happened. He ran to the breaker box behind the stage and fiddled around: nothing. “I’ll get the maintenance director,” he said, running out.

Performance time was fast approaching, no one was around, and I was alone in a dim room. I quickly pulled on my costume and hoped I looked alright. Although the performance was scheduled to begin in less than 10 minutes, the campers had not started coming, and the room was still dark. And hot.

As I sat on the edge of the stage, waiting, I looked around. The room appeared to have once been a barn. Raw wood walls, a double door and no windows reminded me of a barn I’d seen as a child. The room was dim with the double door open. It would be pitch-black if the doors were closed. And hot? While cooler than outside, it was at least 90 degrees. I prayed for a quick fix to the power and good air-conditioning.

Soon the counselor was back. “Sorry, I forgot the maintenance guy’s not here today; he had a family wedding and had to take a few days off. But I’ve brought some lanterns.”

He set a few large battery-operated lanterns on the stage and turned them on. Right then, a deep-toned metal bell sounded outside, and a few moments later, the campers began streaming in. The counselor introduced me and left the building, shutting the doors to keep out the sound of the camp band, which was rehearsing outside. I took several deep, relaxing breaths and asked G‑d for help.

The room descended into blackness, the only lights the three or four lanterns on the stage. Maybe the campers could see me, but I was looking out into what looked like nothingness. If a camper hadn’t sneezed and another couple shifted in their chairs, I wouldn’t have known anyone was there.

I took another deep breath and began.

As I told stories, the room remained silent. Not only didn’t the campers applaud between stories, they didn’t even shift in their chairs. A few times the door opened and shut, and as the quiet continued, I began to wonder if they were all asleep ... or if they had tiptoed out and I was telling stories to an empty hall.

I shortened my performance by skipping a story. Finally, I came to the last one, the Talmudic tale of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza. There was a rich man who held a feast to which he invited all the important men of Jerusalem: the business, government and religious leaders. This man had a friend named Kamtza and an enemy called Bar Kamtza. He had not intended to invite his enemy, but Bar Kamtza had mistakenly received an invitation and came to the feast.

The Talmud does not explain why Bar Kamtza attended. I like to imagine (and so I told the campers) that perhaps he had thought the invitation was a sign that the rich man had wanted to end their conflict. However, this was not the case. The rich man was incensed that his enemy had come, and he told him to leave.

Bar Kamtza asked to stay, offering to pay for the whole event rather than to be humiliated by being thrown out. But his host did not agree. Bar Kamtza left. All the leaders of his city had seen his humiliation and not one had come to his defense.

Our sages teach that public humiliation is worse than murder. When a person is murdered, he dies once. When a person is humiliated, he dies every time he is in the presence of a person who saw his humiliation. Unbearably shamed, Bar Kamtza dreamed up a plot to hurt the people who had seen and had done nothing. His plot was to make the Roman rulers angry. He made the Romans so angry that they decided to destroy the Temple and the city, and to take the citizens to Rome as slaves.

Such, I explained to the silent hall, was the result of baseless hatred. Tisha B’Av, I ended, was a time for each of us to take stock of our own relationships and heal the ones that we could, because hatred, especially baseless hatred, is so destructive.

I bowed to the silent darkness, someone opened the double doors, and the campers quietly left.

I took my unused equipment back to the camp office. I had a splitting headache, was hot and totally discouraged. All those hours spent preparing for this afternoon, renting a car, four hours of driving—all to perform in a hot, dark hall to an invisible, probably sleeping, audience.

A different counselor came along and handed me an envelope with my payment. I suggested that in the future, they give the campers free time after their tennis tournament—that they had been too tired to appreciate another activity. The counselor nodded and asked if I needed anything. She returned in a few moments with my request: water and acetaminophen.

She unlocked the office so I could change back to my street clothes. When I came out carrying my electronics and the tote with my costume, a boy of about 10 was standing by the door. “You going to the parking lot?” he asked. “Let me carry your stuff.”

As we walked to the parking lot, he said, “I really enjoyed your stories, especially the last one.” I thanked him, thinking that was all he wanted to say. We were both silent until we got to the car. I opened the trunk, and he put my things in it.

I started to thank him for carrying my things but he interrupted. “I’ve been coming to this camp for years. In my second year, a new boy came, and for some reason, we didn’t like each other. I don’t remember any reason, but we became enemies. Every summer we are enemies. But there’s no reason; he’s actually a perfectly nice kid. I am going to talk to him, tell him I’m sorry that I wasn’t nice to him and ask him if we can be friends. If he says no, at least I will have tried.”

I was stunned. I had no idea how to respond. But he didn’t wait for me to speak. He slammed the trunk shut, turned and hurried back to the camp. I think he was embarrassed at having revealed so much.

The two-hour drive home flew by. I had been telling stories professionally for several years to audiences in several states and in all kinds of venues. I’ve faced many challenging situations. This one—with excessive heat, darkness, a tired audience, no microphone and a headache—had seemed like the worst. But the afternoon that I had thought was wasted turned out to be one of the most worthwhile. One child learned something important and was going to put the lesson into action.

You don’t get more successful than that.