Things We Learn

August 10, 2014

It’s mid-third session, and I for one am engaging in a little of the good old-fashioned self-reflection camp is known for. I mean, camp is better known for summer fun and games and ridiculousness, but I feel like another important part of the summer camp experience is the way it allows us to take time away from our real lives to ruminate on who we are, how far we’ve come and what it all means.

I’ve always been a proponent of the theory that we’re all where we need to be to learn the lessons we need to learn, and summer camp, especially Camp Tall Timbers, is the kind of place that facilitates that. For the campers, I think one of the most important lessons to learn here is that every moment has the potential to be a great memory. Every skit night, every activity period could easily be the most fun thing you did all summer, if you put in the effort and the creativity. Every moment is a chance to prove to yourself that you have infinitely more strength than you knew.

I have a bet going with Delaney Field, one of the girls in my rock climbing class. Every class she devotes her whole self to getting up the wall; I’ve never seen another camper commit so intensely to one goal. Every time, she gets about half way up and hits a spot she just can’t pass. She clings to her spot, refusing to come down, while I and the other campers holler encouragement and support.

Eventually, though, I have to offer an ultimatum. “There’s no easy way to do this, Delaney,” I call. “You just have to pick a move and commit to it. Put your left leg up and then straighten your leg, okay? Just like you’re standing up from squatting.” I give her one minute: if she doesn’t advance up the wall by then, she has to come down. Other campers need a turn on the wall.

Delaney hasn’t made it up the wall yet, but she will. Even in the few climbing classes we’ve had so far, she’s gotten farther and done it with a more enthusiastic attitude. Delaney is pretty young, and I don’t know if she’s thinking about her experience climbing the wall in terms of personal growth and skill development, but I guess that’s why I’ll do it for her. Delaney, and all the other campers here, are working so hard on developing new and important skills. Camp will do that for you. It can be silly stuff, too. Keenan Jamison hates cleaning, but his cabin mates get annoyed with him when he doesn’t clean, so he’s starting to learn that people like him more when he picks up after himself. In their own way, everybody is learning exactly what they need to.

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