I received an email from a long-time camper and counselor this week. He told me about a recent weekend that he had with a good friend, another long-time camper and counselor. He said they spent a good portion of their time sitting on his front porch, looking at old camp photos from 2008 all the way until 2013, and reminiscing about their time on staff. He simply wanted to express his appreciation for the time he had at camp, his “home away from home.” I was thrilled to read this email and again be reminded of the power of camp and what it does for campers and counselors alike. There was one part of his email, however, that was difficult and somewhat troubling to me. He said that camp was a chapter in his life that had closed. I had a hard time accepting that statement, and I did not truly understand why. He had not been back to camp in 2014 and is gainfully employed as a marketing director, so I knew he would not be coming back in the future. But, I did not like him thinking about his time at camp like it was over. As a therapist I naturally began to examine what these emotions revealed about myself. Was I incapable of letting camp go? Absolutely, but I’ve made this my career. Did I just miss having him as a part of camp? Certainly, but the problem seemed deeper than that to me. As I ruminated on this for a while, what I finally landed on as the reason for my discomfort was this: camp is a gift, one that does not fade away, and I do not believe that the camp chapter ever truly closes in one’s life even after he or she has stopped attending.
Camp Laney (where I’m currently the Program Director) has a tradition, like many camps, of a Morning Watch, where counselors give a brief devotional or life lesson to start each day. Laney’s owner and director, Rob, gives the morning watch on pick-up day of each session. And he gives the same one each time, and it is never stale. He tells the boys that we have all given each other a gift, but it is not like a gift that we receive on our birthdays or holidays. This gift is not opened, played with and then discarded to the closet to collect dust and be forgotten. The gift of camp is an experience that we have all created together, because the compilation of that group will never be together again. This experience will stay with us forever through our memories, friendships, the lessons that we have learned and the character that we have built. This gift can be called upon at any time to give us strength when times are difficult and allow the successes, friendships and joy of camp to keep us afloat.
In this way, camp continues throughout the year in every person who carries the gift of camp with them. In this way, camp continues forever in the hearts and minds of the people who have been impacted by camp (and also made an impact on camp). This is the beauty of camp; in that it impacts us in a way that the camp chapter of our lives never truly closes. It stays with us forever. We may have turned the page, but we can always pick up the book, flip back a few pages and before you know it, you’re immersed in memories and stories with a friend on your front porch talking about camp for hours.