This I Believe…

Anyone who has ever been to camp knows it is a place to play, sing, and be away from home with other kids.  But anyone who has ever worked at a summer camp can tell you it is so much more.  I could list any number of strong beliefs and key values in my life, but all of them can be represented by one incredible place where singing and laughter ring through the trees and the sweet scents of wood fire and lake water mingle in the mountain air.

I believe in camp.

I believe in camp and the values it has taught me.  Work together, work hard, do all you are able, love everyone, build community, and uplift those around you.  Be resourceful and absorb everything you can, because you never know when it will be useful.  Never shy away from new opportunities.  Be true to yourself and faithful to your values.

Camp is a parallel universe: isolated from “the real world,” but with invaluable lessons about real relationships, real problems, and real life in general.  When a bridge washes downstream, it takes a team to put it back in place.  When, in the middle of that process, one person sees a venomous spider on his shoe, the others must remain steady to prevent the bridge from crushing everyone’s feet.  When a cabin door broke, it was jerry-rigged with gimp and pushpins.  When I was left alone in a role that had previously been filled by two people, I was given custody of Garth, a wonderfully rickety pickup.  Within the first day, his right front tire was getting low.  Having watched someone else use the air pump, I thought I could figure it out, but the more I pumped, the lower the tire pressure got.  I called for help, and ended up learning how to patch a tire.  And on a series of long drives to the dump, with a hand-built, bear-ravaged trailer full of trash behind us and Garth as our witness, a dear friend opened up to me about what he calls his “masks,” all the façades behind which he hides from vulnerability.

In “real life,” we are not with the same people constantly and we do not repeat meals and Bible lessons on a weekly cycle.  We as college students are not often in charge of hyperactive children for a week at a time.  We don’t think we have time to spend getting to know others on a spiritual level.  There is certainly less manual labor, maintenance work, and trash duty.  Yet, camp affects my every day.

There’s no reason it should be so rewarding.  Pay is low, expectations are high…as we heard early and often, there’s no such thing as “not my job.”  But once you fall in love with camp, you don’t want to shirk responsibilities.  Once you fall in love with the other people who love camp, you don’t want to see them struggle, so you struggle together instead.  Our theme last summer was 1 Corinthians 16:14, “let all that you do be done in love.”  That truly characterizes camp no matter the official theme.  The deep, abiding love poured out on us daily is shared richly among the staff and with the campers and sometimes, love seems like the last drops of fuel we have to run on.  But at the end of a humid, 100°F day, after building a bridge and administering swim tests and catching crawfish and soothing a homesick child and playing capture the flag and inhaling a preposterous number of gnats, you fall asleep with a smile on your face.