June 23, 2020
Most days, I think about these blogs a few days in advance. Occasionally, however, you see something that requires changing my schedule. This morning was such a day.
A camp parent sent us a short email with a poem by Leslie Dwight attached:
What if 2020 isn’t cancelled?
What if 2020 is the year we’ve been waiting for?
A year so uncomfortable, so painful, so scary, so raw –
that it finally forces us to grow.
A year that screams so loud, finally awakening us
from our ignorant slumber.
A year we finally accept the need for change.
Declare change. Work for change. Become the change.
A year we finally band together, instead of
pushing each other apart.
2020 isn’t cancelled, but rather
the most important year of them all.
Let me start by pointing to the line that most inspired me: “a year we finally band together instead of pushing each other apart”.
I have watched how we have become more separate and polarized from each other. Some of the separation is political, but much is simply physical. We spend less time face-to-face and more time in echo chambers. Social media (and other media for that matter) have developed algorithms designed to capture and hold our attention – and the primary tool for that is outrage and fear. It pushes us away from each other.
Over the years, I have come to treasure the true connection of camp more and more. Sharing a cabin and a community helps us practice finding things we like about each other rather than the opposite.
In this way, camp started to feel ever more unique.
OK, this is great for camp, but less ideal for our society and communities.
Here is the thing that gets me excited and provides some hope. All of us were forced into a virus-induced lockdown. We lost in-person connections. We became more dependent on technology. OK, that sounds bad.
But what if it is really like aversion therapy? Did 3+ months of semi-isolation help us understand how precious our true connections are?
Before you dismiss me as unrealistically idealistic, let me provide a little evidence for my thought: your children and their counselors.
I have been telling the counselors (and the campers to a lesser degree) that people will someday ask them what they did during the summer of 2020 - the Pandemic Summer. Most college kids will answer either 1) binge-watching Netflix or 2) partying. Generally, there are no heroes in pandemics. The history of pandemics shows us hoarding, panicking, worrying. Pandemics generally do not have heroes. But this is not necessarily so. These counselors (who have come from CC but also exceptional camps from all over the nation) are choosing to work harder than they ever have before to be heroes and models of strength to children. When they could have done nothing, they came forward and filled the space.
When we told them that they would not be able to leave the property for 80 days, they did not blink. Similarly, they embraced our no-tech policy (except on a couple of evenings or afternoons off each week).
We have also found the spirit of the kiddos inspiring. They come to Torchlight in masks and have a blast. They wash their hands without complaint. They travel in cohorts. None of these inconveniences seem to bother them because they are at camp – with friends – truly connected.
I hope we continue to savor these true connections.
I am also excited that we are helping our whole community become more flexible and emotionally strong. The world will need them to be this way.