There are a few special people who find their true selves and their real purpose in life at camp. For these people, camp is more than just a job, more than just a place. Camp is a catalyst for change, a spark that starts a fire inside them. For everyone else, camp is just a summer job or a place to hang out with friends. They might try it for one summer and have a good time, but they ultimately find that it’s too much work and not enough free time, or that they don’t like kids and they just like their nights off that are spent with other counselors. But for those special few people, camp is a home, a lifestyle, a family. It is something you simply cannot imagine ever giving up. It is the one place in the world that you’d like to visit, on any day, at any time. It is a small spot on the face of the earth that means more to you than anywhere else. It’s your tiny corner of the world where you know how everything works, you feel safe and in control like nothing could ever go bad.
Being a camp counselor is not all songs, finger paint,campfires, and games. Counselors are moms, dads, teachers, coaches, babysitters, nurses, janitors, athletes, disciplinarians, and entertainers — all at once. You have to be fun and funny, but also responsible and serious. Set the rules and make sure the kids mind them, but also make time for a little silliness and rule-bending. You spend almost every waking moment with your children (minus a few minutes when you are given your legally-required break time). You wouldn’t change it for the world, though, because the things that come out of kids’ brains and mouths are some of the most insightful and hilarious comments known to man. You may not know it, but your words and actions may stick with some kid, and the campers will remember you long after you have forgotten them.
Camp is a place of misty mornings, endless sunburnt days, long painted-sunset evenings, and starlit, cricket-chirping nights. Your days are scheduled down to the minute, and you spend those days traipsing around with your gaggle of goslings from one activity to the next. The magic of camp means that the days feel like years, but the weeks fly by like milliseconds. You start in June, but before you know it, it’s the middle of July… and in a blink of an eye, it’s the very last day and you’re watching your beautiful happy place grow smaller in the rear-view mirror. You look back at the last three months and wonder how in the world did it get to be almost September? Wasn’t it just May?
Every day not spent at camp is a day spent thinking about the next summer – what you can do differently with the kids, new games to play, new tie-dye color combinations to try, relationships you want to mend with a former “enemy” counselor or lifeguard. I’ll let you in on a secret: whether we end up acting on them or not, those thoughts and plans are what get us through the winter. Our hopes and dreams for the next summer are what fuel us through those long, dark nights in January and March.
So keep holding on, all of you who are just waiting until the days get longer. Summer always comes back, and each year has the amazing potential to be better than the last. When you find yourself feeling blue and thinking the winter will never end, just think back to one of those nights spent running through fields or an incredibly hot day spent in the lake… you’ll be right back where you need to be.