Dear Pope Francis,
This is the first summer in four years that I haven’t worked for a day camp. There were two, one on the East Coast that I worked at for three summers, one summer as a councillor and two as director, and one in Toronto, where I was a councillor for one summer. I loved every minute of it! Both were Christian camps, although the one on the East Coast used a distinctly Catholic program.
As I think back over my years, I realized I learned a lot from working at camp. Here are the most important lessons:
- Having a plan is important, but so is throwing the plan out the window. When I arrived at my very first day at camp, I was all about the plan. I watched the clock, making sure that my sessions never went over time, and that the kids were always where they needed to be. It is important that someone keeps an eye on the clock, and has a plan, but as I very quickly learned that, when working with 20-60 kids, even the best laid plans get side tracked very quickly. It’s okay though, because usually when the plans get sidetracked is when the fun happens!
- Repetition is important. The first three summers at camp, we ran the same program in seven different locations, and by the end of the summer, the councillors could burst into any song, complete with actions, at any time, and act out the daily clip of the cartoon we showed the kids. By the time the end of the summer came, we were glad for the reprieve. But, there were days that those songs and stories would strike me in a different way. I would realize a new or deeper truth in the words I was singing, or connect with the stories differently. Since then, I relish the opportunity to hear my favourite bible passages again, or sing my favourite hymns again, but there is something new to discover.
Packing up the mess really isn’t the end. Because my first camp ran in different locations, every Friday we had to pack up and move all our supplies, which could sometimes be a pain (working at camp that stayed in one place only further proved this). But it didn’t matter whether we physically moved locations, or stayed in the same place and the kids moved on, the end of a camp session was sad. Every councillor bonded with certain kids and we all wished that we could bring them with us to the next location. But packing up the mess in one location meant that we could unpack it in a new location on Monday morning. Every week was a new adventure, with new kids to bond with, new jokes to share and new shenanigans to get into.
- The tough stuff will come and go. It doesn’t matter how big or small the group is, there will always be a few who test my nerves. Some weeks, there’s just a while lot of kids, and I could usually guess which weeks would have larger groups than others. I would dread those weeks, and arrive at camp Monday morning, with grit and determination to outlast these kids. I surviv would Monday and Tuesday, and then (yes!) it’s Wednesday, and there’s only two more days! Thursday would be a blur of prepping, and Friday had its own schedule which made the day fly by. Bam, the week is over! Like the tough weeks at camp, I can anticipate the tough or stressful times in my life (like the end of semester work crunch). Like the tough weeks at camp, I tackle the tough stuff head on. Sometimes, tough stuff lasts longer than a week, but being able to get through the tough weeks, means that I can get through the tough seasons of life, because they will have to end, it’s just a matter of when.
And perhaps the most important thing that camp taught me is:
- Sink in and enjoy. The first summer I worked at camp, I was nervous. I wanted the kids to like me, but I was so worried about it, that I didn’t actually get to enjoy being with them. Over the next three summers, I realized that camp was a whole lot more fun when I relaxed and just enjoyed. Yes, I had responsibilities to take care of, but even when I had to take care of those, it all went much smoother when I sunk into the program and went with the flow (whether that included dressing up, letting kids style my hair or playing cards for hours on end). It’s a lot like life. When I stop worrying about who might be watching me (or worse, judging me), and just let myself be and enjoy what’s going on, then I have a whole lot more fun, and I get a whole lot more out of the experience.
Those are the five most important things that I learned at day camp. I learned lots of other important things (like how to snap my fingers in a Z-formation, and make friendship bracelets with embroidery string, and play Skip-Bo, one my favourite card game). In all of these things I learned at day camp, I realized that God is calling me to ministry, and that is definitely to most important thing I realized at day camp.
Breaking out some favourite camp songs and actions,