Camp. Where do we even begin? For so many of us we have some kind of nostalgia attached to that word. It could be a day experience, overnight or maybe even both.
I remember, when I was a child going to my first overnight camp. The anxiety that followed me the entire four hour car ride down was overwhelming. I was SO nervous to leave my family and friends for an entire week. I remember thinking, as I exited from our burgundy mini-van, ‘how on earth am I going to survive without my parents for seven days? What am I going to eat? What if the showers aren’t clean enough? And, the most daunting question of them all, ‘WHAT IF NO ONE LIKES ME?!’
Little did I know that overnight summer camp is a one of a kind, truly unique experience. It is like being transported to an amazing, fantastical realm, where you can be yourself- whether funny or downright ridiculous, adventurous, contemplative, peaceful or quiet.
At overnight camp, you meet like-minded people and people so “overnight-camp-counselor” different that you wouldn’t have imagined you would cross paths with in a hundred years, or a lifetime. The new people you meet and interact with become your best friends for life in just a span of one week. You have the unique opportunity to hang with your peers all day, every day.
As I stepped out of our burgundy mini-van I had a thought, ‘you have the chance to be the coolest kid in camp, the best one they have ever met, so cool and awesome that they would want to simply learn everything about you’. This is what I had been waiting for. No one knew my past! No one knew me! I was just the tall, ginger kid to them. I could be whomever I wanted to be to them.
Once this realization settled in I instantly became comfortable with my new surroundings. I decided right then and there that this was where I was going to become “un-shy”. I marched up to my cabin, looked in with bright eyes full of opportunity, and walked right back to my van. I couldn’t do this! I went to find my sister who had come to camp with me and hid behind her until I was sure it was safe from the peering eyes of my soon to be cabin-mates. Okay, so I didn’t overcome my shyness in one day. I did, however, take a gigantic step in the right direction by going to camp. It is the number one thing that boosted my self-confidence every year, and it certainly helped me become the person I am today.
I soon learned that I could give back to this incredible camp that had a huge hand in shaping who I have become. Working at a summer camp is the best job that I have ever had. It is also the most trying and emotionally draining job as well. Trust me though, the rewards are worth it. Seeing the happy faces of the campers as we race down the water slide. Getting to share the incredible wonder and joy of Jesus as He gently knocks on each of their hearts at His time of choosing. You just can't beat that. No matter how hard a summer may look from the middle, it is always worth it to take the opportunity to be stretched just a little as Christ molds us to be more like Him.
When you are assigned the task of being accountable and responsible for another person (as a counselor or junior counselor), or to a group of people, you will experience a feeling like none before in your whole life. Having the opportunity to positively affect the people around you with your words and deeds- the whole learning experience itself is a reward that will stay with you for life. It taught me important life values such as tolerance, patience, confidence and kindness. It equipped me with the invaluable skill of turning a child’s crying into a smile with just a few magical words.
I really wouldn’t be the person I am today if it weren’t for summer camp. I wouldn’t have the same ideals, the same plans and the same big dream. I wouldn’t have the same confidence as I have now. Camp isn’t just camp for me - it is my home away from home, the place where I can let go of inhibitions and be comfortable doing my own thing, with no walls and no pretenses. The supporting environment of camp taught me to just be myself wherever I go and whatever I do in life.
If you or your kids have never had the chance to experience camp I cannot urge you enough to do s, whether that is through attending camp or helping as a staff member. It WILL change you. You will grow, learn, dream, plan, and change as a person. Now where else can you do all that in just one week?