July 24, 2016
Last last week, a member of our Leadership Team offered to share some thoughts about what he loves about his 14 years at camp. I said I would love to see it. I was quite surprised when he delivered the article below. For a generation that often thinks in 140 characters, this is quite a lovely essay. I hope you enjoy it. [The picture shows Jeffrey Sir (right) with our Rookie Division Leader Alex Chibante.]
Why I Return to Camp
by Jeffrey Dubrof, Senior Camper Division Leader
It is a sunny day. The sky is blue and there are very few clouds in the sky. The grass crunches underneath my war-torn Chacos as I hear the sprinklers flying off behind me as water scrapes the backside of my legs. In front of me, the girls of 7-11 sing their daily lunchtime songs and an “Attitude Check”, (a boys vs. girls chant seeing who has the better attitude) begins. There is never a true winner but it is a clear indication of the excitement level at camp. As I approach the Fillin’ Station, a rookie gives me a high five and says in a voice that sounds similar to an adorable Rugrats character, “Have a great day Jeffrey Sir!” I usually smile and say thank you in response but I can’t help but laugh. It is little moments such as this one that remind me why I continue to come back to camp. There is nothing but pure joy in the faces of these campers. The atmosphere exudes happiness everywhere you walk. You won’t walk anywhere on its beautiful grounds without receiving a hello, high five or the occasional hug. Camp is one of a kind.
As a college student, I find my life is a constant routine. Not that I mind that daily routine, but it is a routine that consists of cell phones, laptops and the awkward hello with that guy or girl I kind of know from your Business 304 work group. During these awkward nods, I miss camp and think about how powerful camp can be. That moment when that child (who is not only unaware what is happening in his Instagram feed but genuinely does not care either) says hello to me, it becomes abundantly clear why I come back to camp. I come back for the authentic connections I create. It is so odd to think that in this day in age that friendships can be created without sharing photos on Facebook or Snapchat. Again I am not a saint and I constantly use these apps outside of my camp home. But camp is different; camp is a home that inspires people to be the best versions of themselves. Only at camp can I find myself having conversations where we disagree but still repsect each other. Only at camp can I find myself being truly emotionally available without being judged.
At camp I find myself being sincerely happy.
I have just finished my lunch of corndogs and mac ‘n cheese. My voice is sore from the constant singing and yelling and I head to the exit to take my dishes to the back porch to be washed. There I see the Senior Campers, listening to music, singing along to Taylor Swift and doing the dishes. Yes these 16-year-old high school students are happily doing the dishes. Seeing them is yet another reminder of what makes camp so great: everything, even cleaning plates that are crusted with a 6-year-old’s mystery peanut-butter and corndog creation, is fun. The senior camper’s smile and spray water and soap at one another as if they don’t realize that they are doing actual work. I hand them my plate and they say to me “Thank you Jeffrey Sir!” In what world do I deserve a thank you for having my dirty dishes cleaned: camp. In what world will you find teenagers having fun cleaning dishes: camp. It is an odd place to find yourself in these situations and often times I find myself in some sort of Alice in Wonderland created by the minds of Susie Ma’am and Steve Sir.
The day pushes on and before I know it I arrive at treat time to see a group of boy campers in a large circle. Normally when you see this site, there can’t be something good in the middle. As I squeeze my way through the crowd, wondering what outrageous thing I might find, I see kids cheering and clapping. I finally make my way to the front to see the kids spectating an epic Spike Ball (feel free to Google it) match between some of the older campers. Kids are cheering for one team as if their favorite team was playing in the NBA Finals. “SPIKE IT BEN SIR!” “NICE SAVE CONNOR SIR!” To me this is just another constant reminder of why I return to camp: the craziness never seems to stop! From games of Spike Ball during treat time to various activities on camp, craziness is all around you. It is the type of craziness that you can’t help but sit back and admire. It is contagious and it infects girls, guys, little ones and older ones.
My day wraps up, I eat my dinner and head to the Coliseum for Torchlight. As our torchlighters make their way down, the excitement builds and builds and finally erupts as the torch is lit and people are going absolutely bonkers cheering “WAY TO GO ALEX, WAY TO GO!!” People are shouting, give high fives and shoving people around in a pandemonium that matches that of a Led Zeppelin concert. I adore Torchlight. One cannot simply explain Torchlight to someone who hasn’t been there before. There are announcements and games. Everything seems like an absolute riot to anyone viewing from the outside world. It is an absolutely pure moment where everyone is generally happy. We get excited about the smallest things ranging from laundry day on Thursday to fireworks on the 4th of July. Torchlight ends with everyone putting their arms around each other and singing the quintessential Camp Champions song: “Golden Champions”. Even for us guys who sound like a band of tone-deaf sea lions, the beautiful song echoes over the waves of Lake LBJ as the sun slowly sets on another amazing day at camp. The sky turns to a color resembling a shade of purple and orange I have never seen before; it is a beauty that is not filtered and intensified through an Instagram post, this is pure.
The sun has set and only a small sliver of the moon sits in the night sky. The stars are out in full and camp is silent. Kids are in the cabins sleeping- dreaming about the activities they’ll do tomorrow. I look up at the stars and see the Big Dipper. I don’t need a flashlight as I walk around the campgrounds, the stars light up the paths and spiders creep through the grass creating art with their webs. It is a final reminder of why I come back to camp: the serene evenings. In other places, nighttime can seem scary. Stories of the boogieman and other horror stories all take place in the dark. The dark can be mysterious and unpredictable, but not at camp. There is no other place where I can see literally thousands of stars and constellations. Scorpio goes over my head at the same time a shooting star zooms by. Like the sunset and its colors, the night sky is pure and beautiful. I don’t see these stars at home and I only get a small portion of my year to see them. I never take this opportunity for granted.
There is no place like camp. 14 summers, 14 years of memories, 14 years of life changing experiences. Thank you Camp Champions for making me into the person I am today. Thank you Camp Champions for constantly reminding me to smile and have fun. And thank you Camp Champions, because when I am a little down or things aren’t going my way, all I need to do is just think about camp, the people, the songs and the pure beauty, and it always brings me joy.