My son has been attending day camp for most of the last two weeks. This is the same camp at which I have been a counselor, office assistant, nurse, and director. He is having a great time, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.
If I am honest with myself, I have to admit that I have never felt the same way about anything else than I have about this camp. The camp is called Summer’s Best Two Weeks (the link is to the official web site; I’ve only ever worked at the day camps). For me, even though I was never a camper, the name held (and still holds) true.
On the outside, there is nothing that would lead one to believe it is absolutely amazing. Simply put, for those unfamiliar with the camp, it is nothing more complicated than a Christian sports camp. So what makes it so special? My answer: Magic.
Relax. I’m not talking Harry Potter magic, or even Narnia magic. I don’t mean the same magic that you find in Disney movies. It’s just a somewhat silly way to say: I don’t know. I have no idea whatsoever what makes SB2W so wonderful. I only know that I have never felt as alive as I do during those two weeks of camp.
I could tell you that it’s a “God thing,” or the Holy Spirit moving, or some other trite, church-y answer. But doesn’t G-d bless other things in life, too? I doubt that SB2W has the market on being infused with the Holy Spirit’s presence. I could tell you that it holds some of my best memories, and that my feelings about camp are linked to that. It would be at least partly true, psychologically speaking, but there are lots of things in my life with good memories attached. I don’t feel quite the same about any of them. You might imagine that some of my joy comes from seeing my own child enjoying camp, sort of like coming full circle. True enough, I am excited to see him loving camp and becoming part of everything. But I already felt that way about camp or I would not have sent my son. Perhaps, then, it’s the whirlwind excitement, the days that leave you too tired to think, the controlled chaos of the moment. That’s definitely part of it, too. There is certainly an adrenaline rush associated with camp. Maybe it’s the way the campers and staff base their actions on love for G-d and love for each other. Yes, that is true too, but camp doesn’t have a market on that, either.
Which brings us back to the whole magic thing. What I really mean is that there is something extra, some spark, that lights up the whole experience. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been at camp for a handful of volunteer hours this time around. I can still feel that whatever-it-is every time I set foot in the church. I see it in the eyes of the kids. I see it on the faces of the staff. I hear it in the songs and cheers all around camp. I sense it in the cool morning air when I drop my son off, and I feel it in the sweaty heat of the afternoon when I pick him up. I remember it when my son tells me what he learned to do that day. I felt the air tingle with it when I watched the camp staff leading Sunday worship. Its energy radiates when the counselors interact with the kids, praising them when they do well and comforting them when they don’t meet their goals. That spark permeates every aspect of camp. It’s the reason so many families send their children back every year. It’s why so many teens return to be counselors when they have “graduated” from being campers. It’s the reason that I hope I have the opportunity to continue to serve and volunteer with these incredible people year after year.
All of us have experiences which shape the people we become. I count myself blessed that I can return to that place each summer.