June 21, 2021
One of the special aspects of camp is the fact that children can be active, loud and crazy. Classrooms are hard places for children – open spaces are much more to their liking.
As you might guess, one of the keys to camp is to calibrate the craziness to maximize fun and minimize chaos. Over the years, we have developed a strong sense of when we are getting too close to this edge and then calm things down.
When done correctly, we end up with happy campers who are ready for a full night’s rest each night.
But occasionally, we intentionally slow things down. Sunday nights are an example. On Sundays, we have Vespers. This is a special time we gather to reflect and talk about what we appreciate and who has helped us. Vespers is not religious, but it does highlight our values.
For example, last night we asked the boys to walk silently from the Coliseum to the sailpoint. The walk is only 100 yards, but that is a long way to expect a large group of boys to be silent. But I gave them this challenge – “we have so many distractions and noise in our lives – it is kinda special to simply slow down and appreciate the sounds.” We heard the breeze in the trees, the water lap the shore, laughter from the girls across the cove and the occasional bird.
When the guys arrived at the sailpoint, we did one of my favorite traditions – Grateful Deeds. During Grateful Deeds, we ask campers and counselors to publicly thank someone that has made their time at camp better. Frankly, I am always moved by their comments. Some thank the kitchen staff for cooking their meals even though we rarely see them. Others appreciated the people who fix and mow. One 8 year-old boy displayed both gratitude and impressive articulation:
“I want to thank my older brother. I was really, really homesick. I woke up in the middle of the night several times. But every day . . . every day . . . he would find me and tell me I would be alright. You see, he had been homesick too a few years ago and he told me ways to feel better. I am not sure I would be here now without his help. I really appreciate him!”
One camper thanked the Lake. I reiterated that we preferred thanking humans, but we all love the lake. We ended with campers thanking campers, campers thanking counselors and everyone thanking the people behind the scenes.
We followed Vespers with Sunday Sundaes as a reward for being so positive and respectful.
On the girls’ side of camp, Susie Ma’am hosted the 9th grade campers as they read letters explaining how they had come to love camp. We have a LOT of those wonderful campers this session (around 28) so there was a ton of positivity across the cove as well.