August 16th – One More Night

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It is the last full day of camp. Our hearts are so full of joy, but they are also ready to burst with our impending departure.

We have aspired nobly: The Four Fold Tournament (themed this year around a Battle of the Bands “Final Countdown”) came to a close with the four-fold relay. 5 teams competed in a hectic race about camp. The event is quite competitive and all  teams were very close.  The Red team was in the lead until “Canoe sink-a-roo” when the Yellow team snuck ahead. Then the Purple team made a shot for the front by landing a few lay-ups on the basketball court and swiftly matching a beaded necklace pattern.

In the final stretch, the green team was tailing the others by just a hair, the green runner pushed hard to bring his team back up to speed. In the rush to gain ground, he tripped and fell. You could feel the collective gasp and heartbreak of his teammates.

But then—the true spirit of Merrowvista revealed itself—the entire green team rushed the field. They surrounded their runner, chanting his name, and together the whole green team walked across the finish line triumphant. Because part of being your best self is giving every task your all, even when it seems hard and hope is dim. Being your best self means taking pride and finding value in the way we have given our very best.

We have adventured daringly. Last night, in MV production, there was a camper whose acting role required her to walk across a slightly inclined beam that was suspended 12 feet off the ground, while in front of an audience of her peers. As she was playing her role, the Adventurer men rode their bikes over camp hill, even after they had been given the option to ride a Merrowvista shuttle past the hardest hills of their ride, even though dusk was quickly closing in, even though I’m sure a few of those bikers wondered privately—can I do this? Will I make it up the hill in time? They all did.

This morning, 15 campers chose to wake up at 6:30, an hour before the rising bell, just so they could hike to the ledge before flag raising. For some it was the very first time. In the salad bar line today I chatted with a young camper; she had never tried an olive before. I offered one of mine, a small dark ring of salty flesh. She really liked it. Being your own best self is a constant process of discovery. Sometimes the daring is a quiet internal battle, the result is often stunning.

We have served humbly: The dish room is the most obvious example of this objective, where villages take turns at the end of each meal washing all of camp’s dishes. How often do campers pause to think about the many small chores that must get done in order to make their worlds turn? At the beginning of the session, campers look squeamish and avoid sticking their hands in the dishwater. By the end, the shyness has worn off. They are too busy singing along to the music to worry about food scraps floating about. They have taken time daily to clean a communal space. They’ve lived in tents where their personal space and the gear that they carry aren’t just theirs, but their whole group’s.  They are learning to live in a small, interdependent community.

Serving humbly is hard to spot, because it involves helping others and expecting no one’s praise or attention in return. Campers walked a little slower to match their pace with their fellow village mate who has struggling on their hiking trip, or agreed to go all the way to the Arts and Crafts building during free time to return a pair of scissors, even if they weren’t the ones who borrowed the scissors in the first place. Being your own best self all the time isn’t just about yourself, it’s also about seeing those around you and being aware of how your actions impact others.

Now the true challenge begins: to be our own best selves beyond the practice field that is Merrowvista. To take all that we have revealed in ourselves and each other and put it in to practice in a world that isn’t always so patient and understanding.

We, all of us, need these young people to aspire nobly. We need them to adventure daringly, and even when no one else is there to watch them and praise them for it, we will need them to serve humbly.

Tonight the entire community is whole, with all of our Four Trails villages back in the valley. Music is blaring from base camp where campers are washing their bikes and emptying their backpacks and sharing stories from their time on trail.

Villages are planning their group closing and their song for candlelight sing. Tonight we gather for a final time at the waterfront. It’s hard to believe the end is here. We’re so full of joy; can you feel it? We might burst.

Tovah Burstein