The beauty of camp is not just the scenic views on the waterfront or on the fields but the friendships, unique experience, and memories created at camp that live on for years. At Camp Robin Hood we see that beauty of camp daily and call it the magic in the trees.
We recently found an article that one father shared about what it meant to visit his son’s summer camp and remembering the beauty of his camp experience. It is a great reminder about why the time spent at summer camp is so meaningful from your first summer to 20 years later when you are sharing a memory with your child.
In this, my son’s fourth summer, I returned to camp over two decades later … It was an extraordinary seven days. Not easy, but extraordinary. I was forced by my exposure to so many kids, to look for and see my deepest sense of self. The camp asks children to be vulnerable, accepting others for the worth of their soul, not for their superficial cover. And, so while asking such from children, we adults are forced to do the same. I observed and was moved by kids who normally wear every mask they can find to hide from the world, instead, remove the layers and serve up generosity in portions which if put together, might actually save our world.
I was moved by the depth of spirit and maturity displayed by the counselors in camp. They are barely adults themselves and yet, they hold the emotional and spiritual lives of real children, experiencing life on all ends of the human spectrum. When these same counselors return to the college campus in the fall, most of their friends will assume that their summers were carefree because they worked in camp. But the opposite is true. These caring souls work eighteen hours a day and learn how to be mature and steady leaders because of their work. I believe that the best of them will build on their summer experiences to make meaningful and impactful lives for themselves.
Most moving, was the sense of freedom children seemed to feel by being at camp. Not because they rule the roost, but because, in a safe environment, they are forced to independently make choices……about which activities they love, but more, how to connect in relationship. They are given room to fall down and not have a parent catch them. They don’t have parents there to micromanage their friendships. Their actions have consequences and it is not made better because of their parents’ wherewithal.
Freedom with boundaries and values says it best. All week, I observed children as they shed off their layers and found within, their deepest sense of wisdom and self. I heard children as they laid on the ground and watched the stars, talk with relief about being away from the drama of their home relationships, the constant talk of violence on television and the academic pressure to be perfect.
It is obvious that breaks from our routine are important, but this was more than mere vacation. These days away from home, school these children in character-building, value-evolution and independence-making. It is not magic; it is good old-fashioned, spiritual, wise, evolving, joyous freedom. The campers grew. I grew. And all of us could use the time away from the same, somewhere, not for fantasy, but for independence from all which sometimes keeps us shackled. We all deserve it.
Excerpt from The Spiritual Beauty of Summer Camp by Matt Gewirtz