It’s Friday night and 200 campers and counselors are gathered around a blazing campfire. Silly songs, chants and skits have filled the evening with laughter and excitement. Then with a slow strum of a guitar string the crowd is settled down and a sudden realization that camp is coming to an end sweeps through like a wave. This is it. It’s time to say goodbye and as campers start to drop their heads and wrap their arms around each other, we start to listen for the tears.
Oddly enough, that sound of noses being wiped and cries being unsuccessfully controlled is music to our ears. Its in those wails that we can be assured that we did a job well done because we know what those tears really mean.
Sure, camp is fun. If it weren’t it wouldn’t exist in the first place. There are so many exciting things to experience and try for the first time. But, anyone that has ever been to camp will tell you that it’s so much more than fun things to do. Camp is meeting new friends from around the world. Camp is stepping out of your comfort zone to try something new and discovering who you are in the process. Camp is being accepted and loved during that discovery. It’s tons of laughter, yelling, goofiness and messes. In a week’s time campers can find comradery in the comfort of others as they face their fears with confidence and encouragement. They cry because they know this is the only place in world where their vulnerability becomes their strength and where being themselves is not only accepted but it is cherished.
So, it may seem strange that our counselors consider it an accomplishment when most of their campers find themselves in tears during closing campfire. But, their pride comes from knowing they contributed to life-long relationships being built, confidence being gained, and independence being discovered.
Saying goodbye is hard and we really would love to linger here with all our campers and counselors the entire year but it’s the fleeting time of our seasonal visits that helps create the magic. Even after the boats are taken out of the water, the archery targets are stored away, and the saddles are cleaned, campers and counselors all over the world will be thinking of camp and the impact it had on each one of them. Pieces of braided thread will remind them they can be a friend to anyone, anywhere. A plate of spaghetti tells them to laugh when things get messy. And the next time they must face something new and challenging they will be reminded that it’s not only possible but that they are capable.
So as summer comes to a close, this is not goodbye but good night and…
We will remember
Our camping days
And friendships true