It was a Tuesday night I think. Sometime this past fall. A group of familiar faces were gathered around Thai food. Naomi was making her rounds to different colleges for recruitment. It was a wonderful time for all of us to sit and reflect. We talked about plans for future adventures and reflected on the adventures that many of us had shared the previous summer. I told people that after my summer as the Waterfront Director I was ready to move on. I mean, after two summers at camp I should probably find an internship or something that could, ya know, give me some professional experience for the “real world.” After I was done sharing I locked eyes with Naomi. She asked me rather forcefully if I wanted to help her get some cookies from her car for everyone.
What do you do when a wild-eyed Naomi corners you and tells you that she’s pregnant? You laugh, you squeal, you hug her, and you agree to go to camp. I’m too soft for my own good. Or so I thought.
My mom once told me that working at camp was kind of like giving birth. When you’re in the middle of it you’re hot, uncomfortable, exhausted beyond belief, and sometimes you want your mom. At the end of the day, when you look back, you remember the laughter, the blur of new faces, and overwhelming feeling of joy and strength as you dance and sing and shout and revel in the beauty of this world. I’m still not sure the two experiences of giving birth and working at camp are completely comparable but I think I understand the metaphor.
I can safely say, as I head into the downhill sprint of this summer, that my job as Summer Assistant Program Director provided me with more experience than any one internship could possibly provide.
This job is hard. I have said this to myself more times than I can count this summer. As I walk next to a 6-foot 200 pound high school camper as he breathes heavy in uncontrollable anger, as I accompany him throughout the evening, as he falls apart and I stand next to him saying “I’m right here, you are safe” I think, This job is hard. As I try to figure out the logistical challenges of having seven staff suddenly fall sick in the middle of the week, I think, this job is hard. As I sit on the phone with CPS and my heart rests in my throat I think, this job is hard. As I sit with an eleven-year-old and listen to her as she feels angry as she feels weird and out of place as she feels attacked and scared as she grows I think, this job is hard and I am so grateful.
I am grateful to read Prince Caspian to a nine-year-old who was spooked by the storm and left out from a game of Mafia. I am grateful as I hold the hands of a seven-year-old as she dips her toes in the swamp for the first time. I am grateful as I delicately hold the attention of 50 kids who are brimming with excitement and nerves for their first night at camp. I am grateful as I watch a high school camper finally pass his green test. His joy is contagious. I am grateful when I hold Elsie’s hand and scream because Naomi is in labor and we are strong and scared but ready.
This place is a sanctuary. This place is brimming with opportunities for growth, for connection, and joy. I am beyond grateful for the time I have spent here for the people I have met, for the kids that I have interacted with, for the opportunities to grow and learn more than I ever thought I could in one summer. I feel so fortunate to call this place and these people home. I feel so fortunate that Naomi asked me to help carry in some cookies from her car.