I always find myself becoming nostalgic toward the end of the summer.
At the start of the camp season, the summer stretches out far into the future. The end seems incredibly far away.
The days are also intense. Living in a cabin with 10-13 other people is a truly immersive experience without much “personal down time”. The friendships form quickly and deeply (I always marvel at how many camp friends are in wedding parties), but if you find yourself a little annoyed with someone, you cannot ignore it.
The days are also incredibly active, with 6 hours of daily activities (most of which are somewhat physical) and special activities on top of that. While campers get full nights of sleep (9ish hours), they generally hit the bed hard at the end of the day.
Time is a funny thing at camp. We often say that the “days are long, but the weeks are short”. I remember my first Man Cave last Tuesday as if it happened yesterday, but this morning’s meeting seems somewhat distant.
As the summer advances, time also accelerates. With each session, I find the days rolling faster as I strive to make the time with the campers last. I find it hard to believe that many of our campers will be leaving in 2.5 days. One of the hard parts about camp is the fact that you do get highly attached to the individuals and the community very rapidly. We truly begin to feel like part of a family. As campers return year-after-year, those bonds only strengthen. That is a gift, but it also makes saying goodbye much harder.
Since I have done this so many years, I know how quickly the last days and weeks will speed by. I also know that in a month or two, counselor or leadership team member would give anything to be waking up at 6 AM to run a Lake Swim or staying up late for a counselor meeting. These temporal inconveniences might inspire the occasional complaint today, but they will seem precious soon. Campers and counselors will long for nightly rituals where they share the high points of the day with their cabin.
In short, we will miss the community. When I attended Davidson College, we had an Honor Code that we took very seriously. As a result, we had essentially zero cheating or theft. I remember the President of the College saying that “it is not that better people come here, but our community compels us to be better people”. At our best, our community does the same thing. College students choose to forgo partying. Everyone unplugs from technology. We strive to practice kindness and look for the best in each other. Sure, we are not always successful, but we do pretty darn well.
Some of our counselors have told me that camp is a great place to see how people are at their best. One female counselor said that a guy that is enthusiastically teaching a 9 year-old is far more appealing than a guy at a fraternity party!
So our community is nearing its end and I want to tell the counselors and campers how much they will miss it. I want them to savor the time together because it is different from the “real world” and better in so many ways. When school returns, there will be fewer silly songs, Pirate Ships, stories by starlight and deep conversations. Do not get me wrong, I am a huge believer in education, but I also wish that we spent a little more time at here.
As I look over this, I realize I have rambled a bit. I hope you will forgive the indulgence. I just know that soon we will be missing the same children that you are currently missing.
But I cannot imagine doing anything else.