July 31, 2013
Sunday night at girls’ Vespers, the women of 7-11 shared letters with camp. 7-11 is the campers who just finished 9th grade and are in the first year of our high school leadership program (the Senior Camper program).
Susie Ma’am returned with a stack of the letters for me to look at. She looked like a proud mother, smiling ear-to-ear.
I read many of them and toyed with the idea of sharing random quotes, but decided to share one single one instead. I think it talks about so many of the benefits that camp can provide over time. I hope you enjoy it.
[Start of letter] I’m (camper name) and I have been coming back to my home for 6 years. Home is where the heart is and my heart is split between 2. One home is where my family, school and friends are, where I care about my appearance before leaving the house. Even though I love to be myself, its hard sometimes. The second home is a place that I look forward to for 365 days. I am in my natural, sweaty, messy, dirty, happy form at camp. Camp lets me relax.
I don’t know if this makes sense, but right when I enter through that spur, my worries and self-judgment disappear. I wake up early in the morning and go to sleep late, but these long hours reveal to me the beauty of camp. The chaotic madness shows and brings out my childish side. Camp is 3 weeks every summer that I can do the things I love, but as the years went on, commitments in my life started to interfere.
My love for camp is strong enough to withstand the pressures at home. Varsity this, honors and AP that – they consume me during the year and summer is the ideal time to prep for them. That prep time and camp overlap and I thought long and hard about everything. What makes me happy is the important thing. Camp makes me happy, so the choice this year was make and I plan to make the same decision for the rest of my senior camper program along with counselor years. This program is known as the best, so I had high expectations. Everything so far has surpassed my expectations. Camp overall has surpassed my expectations. Cheesy, but true – this is my second home that has helped form me into a more confident, fun-loving, daredevil, crazy person that I am now.
Thanks camp and everyone I’ve met along the way from the bottom of my heart. [End of letter.]
I like this letter for several reasons, but I think my favorite part is her thoughts on being a high-achiever. She is an accomplished young woman and she enjoys her school and extra-curriculars. Having said that, she also finds them at times a tad too omnipresent. As a result, she values the opportunity to step back from the constant competition and be a “sweaty crazy person” as well.
What she might not know (but I am guessing she suspects) is the fact that this respite makes her better when she returns to her first world. Unplugging from the pressures and technology of the “real world” for just 3 weeks essentially hits a reset button in her life. Research in the area of Positive Psychology suggests that these revitalizing breaks serve to make people more capable and centered when they do return to their endeavors.
If you have a first time camper who is 7 or 8, I hope you do not think that this is too irrelevant to your child. I share her letter not because these benefits only happen for high schoolers. I share it because high schoolers are able to articulate it. We think all children benefit from these types of breaks – especially if they are coupled with loving and supportive role models.
To contrast, I also had Man Cave with the youngest boys. Let me assure you, they were far less self-aware. But they were just as excited as this Senior Camper. They had fun making models of their favorite activities using legos and they laughed and teased playfully. They were also “sweaty, messy, dirty and happy”.
As we sat there, I also thought about Susie Ma’am, our counselors, our Leadership Team and me. I realized that we are also sweaty and happy. At its best, the camp community is a gift to us all. I am just glad I had such a nice reminder today!