Susie Ma’am and I love spending time with the Senior Campers – the members of our high school leadership program. Within the camp community, the Senior Camper program is fairly well-known. I am not sure how other people specifically heard about it, but we have been asked to speak about it at conferences about a dozen times.
The key to the program is a combination of love and high expectations. As I have written already, we rarely get what we hope for, but we often get what we expect.
When you expect teenagers to be responsible, caring, attentive and selfless, they will rise to the occasion.
Camp provides many opportunities for such challenges.
In a typical year, they would mentor younger campers as well as do service projects. This year, some are teaching activities and others are helping set up special events. The older two groups are also helping Chef Travis.
They each go on a retreat during the term. The travel limitations have modified, but not eliminated their trips. For example, one group traditionally rows war canoes (large canoes that sit 11-13) to a camp site. This year, they rowed away from camp and then back to a campsite that is on our neighbor’s property 200 meters away from camp.
We also bring them into our home (by age group) 5-6 times each session. These gatherings – called “Baskin Talks” (we are not that imaginative sometimes) – are a chance to talk about topics that are important to them. For example, we talk about taking control of their social media diets, the power of posture, developing gratitude and choosing their best mindsets.
Today we shared one of our favorite videos with the oldest two cabins, David Foster Wallace’s This Is Water. This video was created based on a commencement speech for Kenyon College. It is worth the 10 minutes to watch, but I will give you the essence.
Life is full of experiences that are tedious, annoying and tiresome. Our default mode is to focus on the inconveniences and become frustrated. He suggests that this is where we have a powerful choice – we can choose to see things differently. We should be open to the probability that others are annoyed as well. We should contemplate the possibility that the people who are inconveniencing us have good reasons to do so. He goes so far as to suggest that even the most trying experience can be more than just moments to be tolerated. Instead they can be ”sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.”
He then adds, “Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that’s capital-T Truth is that you get to decide how you’re going to try to see it.”
We then talked about what that might mean to them. We loved the answers.
“I find that I can be negative – especially on social media. But I realize I can have more control of that.”
“It makes me want to assume the best intentions in others.”
“I especially like this video for this summer. We could see this as a summer that we need to wear masks and interact less with younger groups – and that is a bummer. Or, we can decide to celebrate that we are here - with dear friends – at camp. I also think we can help the younger campers choose their attitudes as well.”
When we heard that, my friends, we knew they had it.
Certainly, camp is about fun and friends. But I live for the moments of growth and learning as well. It is powerful to see 17 year-olds deciding that they want to be positive.
PS The photo is the oldest Senior Camper boys lip syncing a song. No, you do not miss much!