Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Value of Camp

Dearest Readers,

In May, I entered a room full of strangers, eyes searching for the three people I knew. It seems so strange to think back on that. Staff training was almost two weeks long, and we learned so many beautiful things, and I got to know the people around me more and more. But sometimes I felt kind of panicked when I looked around and realized how little I knew about the people around me--two weeks is so short to know anyone, much less over 90 people. Was I even allowed to call them friends yet?

We played a "name game" so that all of us could shed our everyday name for a camp nickname. As we played, we stopped calling someone their real name and began only using their camp name, trying to get it down before campers came. Every game we played my stomach flipped over a little wondering if it was my turn. I think I pegged too many of my mixed emotions--fear, excitement, overwhelmed, amazement--to my name. I wanted to feel connected to this group of people, and was doubting if I was even known at all.

So when I sat onstage with my dear friend Hailey, and heard names like "Milo!" and "Abuelita!" and "Taco!" shouted, I held back tears. I was honored that anyone would take time to consider a name for me at all, but it just reminded me how very new I was to all of these people, and how new they were to me.

But then I heard the all too familiar shout one last time--"I have a name!"

Silver Sunrise. That was the name presented by two of my dear friends. My friend who shares mate with me chose silver because it's the beginnings of the word Argentina (argentum). Sunrise came from the word sonrisa for smile, from the friend I raked and shoveled and made a horse trail out of dirt with.

I was known. People knew me there, even after just a couple of weeks. I could call them friends, and more than that even--soon they became family.

It was really hard to leave that community. My mom, who has known the value of camp since her college days working at Camp Garaywa, and I were talking about what a unique place camp is the other day. In a different way than anywhere else, you can be silly together and you work hard toward a common goal together and you live in community together. There's so much value in camp. It's the most beautiful mix of what it means to live.

We threw water balloons and carried campers to the water slide as many times as their hearts wanted (and our arms could) and later jumped down the slide into the lake.

We danced and dyed our hair pink and painted sparkles on our faces that ran down after a couple minutes of dancing with our diva campers. 

We washed heads and held hands when it was scary to be away from home and ran together calling for the nurse in the middle of seizures. 

We made safe places to share our hearts and talked about "what made you belly laugh this week" and let awkward silences be beautiful. 

We dressed like princesses and rockstars? and acted ridiculous just to hear laughter bubble out of lips that never speak words. 

Sometimes we all gathered to tell our favorite campers goodbye, sometimes we cried and prayed and held onto each other when we had to send them home to a place lacking in love. 

We were brave and we asked our campers to face their fears while boldly facing our own. 

We were fightalongsiders this summer. The theme for camp was "Alive!" and it couldn't have been more perfect. Camp Blessing this summer showed me a more authentic way of living--you can tell people how much you love them and you can dance your heart out and let mud stay between your toes for a while and even if you haven't showered in a couple days and look like you haven't slept, you'll still be loved. There was no judgment, just love. Like a family. And though I keep using the past tense, I know these dear ones are fightalongsiders for life. 

There's nowhere I would have rather been this summer. Here's to taking my favorite parts of camp and trying to make the "real world" look more like Camp Blessing--a place where everyone is seen as capable, even if you can't communicate with words or you learn differently or you've never worked at camp before. A place of authentic love.

Your Blogger,
Claire aka Sonrisa

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