Sing Your Song (All Day Long)

Sundays are filled with singing at Illahee. Granted, most days have their fair share of music, but our Sundays are overflowing. We begin with a slow morning and buffet breakfast in PJ’s. And then we’re off to worship at the Woodland Chapel. The counselors and campers of Pineview led us in a wonderful service this morning. We focused on worry; On the challenge of truly letting go of our worries in order to be present to what God has put right before us. And in worship, we sang. We sang songs of praise like Lord of the Dance, Prince of Peace and more. Three CIT’s gave the sermon. It was a beautiful morning to be gathered at the Woodland Chapel.

The afternoon continued after a fried chicken lunch with our swim show. Campers showed off their fancy flips and acrobatic dives, our synchronized swimming class performed a delightful dance and swim to a mashup of music, and everyone got to go off of the streak water slide and Tarzan rope swing. The events continued with a game of greased watermelon, swim relays, belly flop contests and more! The sun was hot, and the lake was crisp. It was a beautiful afternoon to all be gathered around the lake.

Tonight, we made our way up to the campfire ring and had our last Sunday night campfire of the June session. Many songs, some silly, some heartfelt, were sung. Pineview counselors appeared from deep in the woods to entertain us with a rousing edition of the “Pineview Platoon.” Heigh Ho camper Scout got up with her guitar and sang us all a song. And after a few hilarious skits and a bedtime story, we sang the Pinetree song and headed off to bed. It was a perfect night to be gathered around the campfire.

Lots of gathering…Lots of singing.

And the singing, as fun as it is, serves a purpose beyond letting us show off our angelic vocal cords. Our singing and silly movement helps us to feel a sense of Awe. Dacher Keltner wrote a whole book about awe. In one of his chapters, he explores the role of moving and singing in unison in what he calls “collective effervescence.” Through years of research from various cultures, times, and places, he points to the reality that when people get together, when they sing in unison, when they move their bodies together, they end up “moving their bodies the way they were meant to be moved” and together they feel this magical, happiness-generating, emotion of awe. It doesn’t matter if it’s a stadium of 100,000 fans watching a rugby match, a tribe of a few dozen in Sub–Saharan Africa, on the dancefloor of a bar mitzvah in Atlanta, during mass in the cathedral at Notre Dame, or a group of Illahee campers singing in Brevard. Our collective effervescence is a gift that makes us happier, kinder, and more connected people.

I’ll admit, at first, the singing felt like a lot. I asked myself “Why are we singing about a little green frog at nine in the morning during rise and shine, and then Winnie the Pooh twelve hours later??”

But I have felt awe here. I find myself becoming aware to a feeling beyond complete description, when the goosebumps start to form, the eyes might well up a bit, and the thought pops into my head wondering, “why can’t the whole world be like this? Why isn’t there more singing, silliness, and joy beyond these wooded acres?” I think there is, and I’m probably just not looking in the right places. But either way, camp reminds me of the joy of singing with other souls. Of gathering to celebrate our common humanity and loving this precious life that we have been given. Who would’ve thought that a song about a little green frog could stir such existential thoughts?

As I walked home tonight, I passed through the Rec Lodge. Sometimes after a long day I like to linger in the stillness. However, there was no stillness tonight. As I heard shouts of Taylor Swift lyrics coming from Pineview and Heigh Ho’s surprise dance party, I noticed the words inscribed across the mantle of the great fireplace:


Thanks to Camp Illahee for letting us do just that, together.