Not much surprises me after 23 years of camp directing, but I am often touched by the kindness of others. Tonight it came in a small package at an unexpected time. We had just finished floating Wish Boats on the swim lake, when a Hillbrook Camper, probably around 8 or 9 came up to me and gave me a hug, looked up at me and said, “thanks for a really great week.” I replied, “thank you for a really great week.” Indeed it was.
This is not a thankless job. Some people are silent heroes, doing a thankless job…sometimes their whole life…almost invisible. Mine is not one of those. At the end of the two week session, we had a staff goodbye lunch as many of the counselors who had been here since late May were headed back to school or work or their other lives. Junior Camp, by design, is a bit smaller, encompassing only two hills instead of three…primarily so we can insure a space at camp the following year. At the end of the luncheon, the counselors surprised our leadership team with a video that they had been working on for a significant part of the summer, basically toasting each one of us individually. It was one of the nicest gestures in a long career of nice gestures. There are notes and letters throughout the year that are often timed just perfectly to remind each of us of the privilege that we have been given to work with the girls we do. Camp just does that…it changes lives (including ours), and we are so blessed to be stewards of such a great place. So I don’t know why this simple thank-you affected me so tonight…maybe it was the timing, which is…after all, everything. But it did.
I wonder how many of you have noticed as we grow older how easy it is to become more acutely aware of what can go wrong. As a camp director, we call that risk management…but in the wrong hands, risk management can go awry, even at the parenting level. Children need to take risks. Shelter a child from risk, and she may be living with you when she is 40…and no one wants that. Camp is such a great place to try on new versions of yourself. We hear over and over from campers and parents…”I feel like I am the best version of myself when I am at camp.” This week, the risk was mostly about independence…being away from mom and dad…taking care of clothes, brushing teeth and becoming comfortable navigating the cabin. As campers grow older, it is about trying new things…maybe climbing on Looking Glass or kayaking a river…learning to woodwork or entering the tennis tournament…but still independence. As risk managers, we think a lot about what could go wrong, and we do everything in our power to manage that risk…when we float Wish Boats, it symbolizes the spirit of Illahee going back out into the world. Girls make a wish and then float their candles out on the lake. Tonight, I floated a Thanksgiving Boat…I am thankful for God’s protection in one of the safest summers we have known.
My personal wish is to send every girl home better than she came. I hope that is the case with your camper. I can’t wait for you to see her in the morning…pick-up starts at 9:00 am and works much like drop-off. When you pull up to the loaders, we will load your camper’s trunk or duffle (anything big). You will park in the parking lot and then pick your camper up in her cabin. Be sure to check for anything that may not have made it into her trunk…crazy creek chairs, tennis racquets, riding helmets, tennis shoes. We’ll mail it if we find it, but would rather it go home with you. Take time to let your camper show you her favorite spots in camp. The Ship’s Store will be open for any purchases. We will settle accounts by mail next week.
Thank you for a terrific session. It has been a privilege to spend a fun-filled week with your girls and we look forward to the time when we meet again in our Heavenly World!