Why I Went to Summer Camp

By Hayden Vick

Ah, 7:30 is here again, and the ringing of the bell I now know all too well has stirred the men of cabin six. Sleepy-eyed and exhausted, we all get out of bed at the bell’s request because we know that the day ahead is sure to be full of adventures and new surprises at every turn. I also hop up because I know that eight seven- to ten-year-olds might need my reminder that it’s time to get the day started. Yes, every day at camp starts this way: 7:30 sharp and by bell. And yes, I did choose this as the way to spend my summer of 2016.

I learned that being a camp counselor is a lot more than teaching basketball and guiding a cabin of boys around all day. It is the largest commitment I’ve ever experienced, and I can truly say I had no idea what I was getting myself into. What made me qualified to be responsible for 32 little dudes in a span of three months? What had I done to deserve the opportunity to mentor a counselor-in-training? I didn’t really know what to expect coming into camp and somehow, the summer still exceeded my expectations.

Six activity periods dictate campers’ daily schedules, and what makes Falling Creek so awesome is that every camper has the power to choose his six activities based on his own preferences and interests. In the gym that was finished just two years ago, I spent almost every day teaching basketball and often getting my butt handed to me by campers one-on-one. I learned so quickly how to lose to someone younger than me, sometimes half my age. Embarrassing at first, but so humbling and great exercise after all.

I still don’t think it’s sunk in that I got to be a (hopefully positive) role model for the 32 boys in my cabin, not to mention the numerous others with whom I interacted via basketball, meals, etc. Summer camp is a time of exploration, excitement and growth for these guys, and I am so proud to have been apart of that at Falling Creek.

We come silently into the place known as campfire, take our seats as a cabin, and wait for the traditional ceremony that involves speakers, skits, and music. Campfire is a place where everyone can feel completely free to say whatever they want without fear of judgement or condemnation in the least, an open forum where I’ve personally seen tons of laughter on some nights and tons of tears on others. Perhaps the perfect depiction of the essence of campfire is Dusty Davis’ “Stone Soup” piece in which he embraces and illustrates all that campfire is so beautifully. In his story, Dusty also includes Psalm 1:33, which is said at the beginning of each campfire: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.”

All summer, I was completely transparent about not feeling like I belonged at camp for the first few nights, especially on the day of my arrival. No air conditioning, bugs everywhere, and not exactly my favorite place back in May when I figured out what was in store for me for the next three months. I may never have gotten used to the bugs, but I do know that I was welcomed to this place by everyone there, and so I was able to welcome it into my heart as well.

So what would a camp counselor say are the perks to spending your summer as I’ve spent mine? Rather than procure a simple list, I’ll just say that the seemingly cliché anecdote is more fact than fiction: It’s an experience that will get into your heart and stay there. I can honestly say that I put my whole self into this role, in every interaction with every camper, as well as with fellow counselors. I like to think I exerted every possible ounce of energy toward giving as much to camp as it gave to me.

Needless to say, I’m infinitely thankful for all of the people, from the age of six and up, who I may not have ever met if it weren’t for my summer at camp; as so many people will tell you, it’s the people who make the place what it is. Regardless of where life takes me, I’ll always cherish my summer spent as a counselor at Falling Creek Camp.

This piece originally appeared in Huffington Post