Session B Begins!

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Years ago, at summer camp, I learned a Turkish proverb: “Our skin is waterproof.”

Rain is not ideal on opening day. It’s less fun to tour around camp in the rain, to play name games in the rain, to unpack your trunk and set up your bunk in the rain. But, our skin is waterproof. We never wish for rain on opening day, but sometimes opening day arrives and it rains.

It’s likely that most kids go to camp because camp is fun, but I’m betting that most parents dropped their children off at Merrowvista today not just for the fun, but for 1 to 4 weeks of learning.  I don’t mean learning how to finger-weave a friendship bracelet or to perfect their j-stroke in the back seat of a canoe. These are handy skills to have, in their own way, but it’s far more useful to learn that our skin is waterproof.

Waterproof skin means we don’t give up because it’s raining. We still had groups setting up their tents and testing their stoves as they prepared to leave for their time on trail. We still had villages visiting the gaga ball court, playing circle games like Bob-the-weasel, and singing repeat-after-me songs.

Skin that’s waterproof means that we each come to the table already armed with the tools we need to be successful. We don’t need fancy gear or the latest gadget to make it through our time at camp. Even in the rain, groups still played get-to-know-you games like two truths and a lie, and peek-a-who. Campers still built connections with their cabin mates by passing a question ball around and sharing stories from their school year. After this evening’s activities, villages will end the night seated together for a village insight. They’ll set expectations together by discussing what each village member brings to the group and what they will need from each other to be successful. We make this time together meaningful, magical simply by virtue of being ourselves, together. Our skin is waterproof.

It may have been muggy out, but we still gathered in the eating lodge as a community and sat in reflection before the meal as a camper shared over the microphone something they were grateful for.

Dropping the metaphor for a moment, the Canaan Valley needed the rain badly. Plants were beginning to look brown and withered. A walk along the brook and up to Merrowvista’s waterfall winded along a dry creek bed and ended in a tumbling trickle rather than a true waterfall. Sticking your head under the waterfall for the “Burly Test” is an in-camp rite of passage, and it wouldn’t quite have the same gravitas to it when the ice cold waterfall was only a tepid trickle.  We need a little adversity to remind us what we secretly hope is true—our skin is waterproof.

Perhaps your camper is here for the week and they’ve never been to camp before. Perhaps you’re dropping your camper off for the fifth year and they couldn’t wait for you to just drive away and leave them with their friends already. Either way, you are home now and they are here, and everyone, everyone involved is hoping that there is fun to be had and maybe even some learning to be done. I’m writing to tell you it’s unavoidable. The staff here has spent six weeks already (three+ weeks of staff training and three weeks of running the first session of summer camp) preparing intentional, joyful, exuberant activities designed to engage these campers, your campers.

And though this staff has prepared purposeful, spirited activities, there may be rain.

But don’t you worry. The staff has also trained and planned for the unavoidable moment when the skies open up and harangue us. The true secret purpose of summer camp and camp counselors is to guide young people along to that beautiful and freeing realization—our skin is waterproof. Like name games, sitting in circles, and repeat-after-me songs, it’s hardly even summer camp without a little rain.

Tovah Burstein