I’d like to pose a philosophical question to the parents of this camp community; each parent must consider and answer for themselves: Will your camper return home with more or less than they arrived with?
Some might say less, and they might be right.
At the gaga-ball court (a popular free-time hang out spot) I found a blue and red sweatshirt, a pair of pink sunglasses, and a hard-cover copy of Drama (it’s a popular read this summer). In the Bahn I found a towel decorated with green seashells and the carefully copied out lyrics to a song from High School Musical.
It’s very easy to return home with less.
It’s not uncommon to come up from paddle boarding and arrive dripping wet to your improv interest group, and then, by the end, to be dry and too engrossed in the invisible bench you and your improv troop have created to remember to bring your towel to lunch. Who can really say whose white, crew cut socks those are? They might be your camper’s socks; they might be mine! We try to reunite campers with lost belongings, but to a certain extent the separation is unavoidable.
Oh, but they might come home with more!
The friendship bracelets they have made! The birdhouses and benches that have been pounded into creation alongside Papa Richter in the woodshop! The Mod Podge journals filled with newly formed ideas about food-waste, living in community, and challenge by choice! Did your camper do Go-Getters every morning while they were here? Great! They’ll return home with a new t-shirt.
It’s almost impossible not to come home with more.
Even in just one week, there will be stories and songs to share. There will be new friends to visit and new games to introduce. There will be more bug bites and tan lines. They may even arrive home with some other camper’s pink sunglasses or seashelled beach towel. You know your camper as well as anyone does.
Undoubtedly, they’ll return home with more.
At the very least they’ll return home with a small gift: a founder metal. The founder metal is a penny sized token that shows the four-fold symbol of balanced living on one side and the motto encircling a camp fire on the other: “My own self, at my very best, all the time.” It’s a small token to recognize the much bigger concept that we’re really trying to peddle here at camp.
Our aim is that they leave here with more.
We hope that campers leave here with all the things they came with (we even inventory the lost and found and call campers up when we find something clearly labeled with their name), but the hope is that they go home with more. Not more stuff, but more of a sense of themselves, and more of an idea of just how much they are valued and capable of.
At its heart, Merrowvista is a specialty camp. Just like soccer, theater, or music camp, Merrowvista has a specific aim and deliverable. Instead of athletic skills or music theory, all our time and activities are focused on the idea of best self: of developing individuals who strive to be their best, who have clearly defined beliefs and goals and act in accordance with those values, who are open to diversity and seek to make the world around them better. Everything, everything we do here is designed around those objectives. Even meal times. Even gaga-ball. Even swim lessons.
Alas, your camper might return home without that towel, or book, or sweatshirt. But it was not lost in vain. Imagine the responsibility bestowed on them to choose which activities they wanted to sign up for during interest groups. Imagine the planning it took for them to make their way from the waterfront to the Bahn between first and second interest group. Imagine how they had to pack their closed-toed-shoes ahead to arrive on time and in the appropriate attire to be ready to play. Imagine them trying something new with a new group of kids. Even wet from swim lessons, even tired from the walk up that hill, imagine them reaching out to help each other and make new friends. Really, who can be bothered with a sweatshirt or crew cut socks?
Perhaps the towel did not survive its one, short week at camp. What campers bring home with them will last much longer than a towel ever could.