July 18th – What We Learn from Campers

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When I arrived at Merrowvista for a new summer, I was invited to share “a moment of gratitude”; this happens before each of our meals and is a time when an individual offers a thought which represents thankfulness, and likewise why we are appreciative.  As an educator, I am struck by how often children and adolescents enlighten me.  Truly, it is with deep gratitude that I receive a gift of wisdom from youth.  I have spent the last few days at camp observing “campers-in-action”; and as usual, what I have noticed in these wonderful people are admirable qualities that counsel me in “Best Self” living.  Here’s my “short list” of distinctive attributes from my younger comrades…

ENCOURAGEMENT OF OTHERS.  I sat in on an Outdoor Survival interest group in which the campers were learning how to make roping from dried milkweed stem.  What a hefty and time-consuming task to produce anything remotely similar to cording for a rope from a thick segment of stalk!  But there we sat, and a camper scooted herself over to me and said, “Do you need some help?  Sometimes people like help, but sometimes people need space to figure it out on our own.  I will only help if you want it, but you should keep trying, too!”  How empowered I felt to keep diligent in my task.

TRY TO BE BRAVE WHEN ATTEMPTING NEW ADVENTURES.  I sauntered on over to Base Camp, the hub for out of camp trips.  A group of young Adventurers were compiling all necessary goods for an overnight campout:  stuffing sleeping bags, organizing pots and pans for dinner over the campfire, lacing up hiking boots.  I noticed two peers quietly chatting on the sidelines, one looking quite hesitant about the entire process which lay ahead.  I tried with great care not to seem nosey, and at the same time could not help but overhear an exchange from one to the next, “It might be hard!  But we need to TRY new things like this if we want to LEARN new things like this!!”  The response from the friend?  A sweet grin and nod of agreement.

MAKE AND KEEP FRIENDS.  A camper mistook me for one of my dear camp friends as I walked up the path to the Farmhouse.  I smiled as I thought of her.  The camper and I went on to have a chat about HIS first friend at Merrowvista.  He shared that when he arrived on Opening Day, he was so nervous; he had never come to a place where he knew “NO ONE”!  He elaborated, “But then, when I was moving into my cabin, I saw this kid who looked kinda nice and he needed help with his stuff.  So I took a deep breath, and asked him and he said, ‘yeah!’ so I helped him!!  And now we eat, like, every meal together and have the same interest group and I think we may be friends forever.”

PLAY IS ESSENTIAL.  Yesterday our waterfront came alive under the sapphire sky as we celebrated Water Carnival!  Games like “Greased Watermelon” and “Pudding Paddle Relay” found us all cheering and laughing at our antics.  “Water Balloon Quidditch” brought out our competitive sides, but in the end congratulatory fist bumps and bursting balloons resulted in a healthy torrent of squeals and giggles.

Another day of living in a community committed to building a world of meaning and hope for children comes to a close.  And, because of the joy and wonder they bring to this collective, the children continue to teach us.