Let Me Tell You About Camp
- By Shaun Withrow
Let me tell you about camp. Let me tell you because no one understands why we wait for camp with an anticipation greater than the anticipation we have waiting for Christmas. Let me tell you because no one understands why we count down the days to church camp. Camp is what I allot all of my vacation days to and the reason I say, "Nope, I don't have the vacation time," to almost everything else without even stopping to think about it.
Let me tell you because camp is the reason I am who I am.
I take more life lessons away from that place in a week than I do in the year surrounding it. Every year, without fail, I'll walk away renewed and reidealized - even if it's ever so slightly. And it's not the God stuff - though that contributes. It's the campgrounds themselves, and the people, and the attitude. It's a release amongst 200 other people releasing. And it's like that because you're with imperfect people, who have led imperfect lives, who work imperfect jobs, and you've all come to camp to do nothing but hang out with people who don't give a damn how imperfect you are.
Just hanging out becomes so important, in fact, that if you find yourself alone, you go hunting for people hanging out. And you step into their circle, and you step into their frisbee toss, and you step into their spot beside them in the lunch line and that's it.
For seven straight days you do nothing but laugh with your friends. And they're not just your friends. They're friends you haven't seen in a year. Friends who hug you every time they see you, and hug you when you trip, and hug you when they ruin the season finale of The Office for you because... there's an inexplicable need to hug the person next to you. All of the time.
And sometimes you get a little overwhelmed by all of the hugging and all of the laughs, and you sneak away (no mean feet) and you find a secluded place next to the lake. Be it at sunrise, sunset, or when the sky is coated in stars (and I mean coated), and you sit there staring at... nothing. And you talk to God. You may call it talking to yourself, or to the world, I call it God. And you laugh with God and God hugs you.
So you realize this is something everyone needs to see, and you drag them all out to look at the stars. And everyone lays there in silence so as not to disturb the calm. Occasionally a shooting star is pointed out, a satellite, a constellation, but it's mostly silent. You've got a close friend, who you've bonded with unbelievably, using your arm as a pillow and you learn more and more about everyone with you just by how they treat the beautiful quiet of it all.
And then a night's done. On to the next, and the next. From the moment you get there you start the ominous countdown to the bitter end. We all know it's better that it ends so as not to spoil the rarity of it, but at the same time none of us want it to end at all.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday...
Yeah, you're asked to help with a lot of stuff. But you do it together with your friends and suddenly it's not so bad. It's gotten to the point where I'm on the brink of excitement to wash the dishes 200 people ate off of because I'll be doing it with the people I love; and we'll crack stupid jokes, and we'll sing awful campfire songs, and we'll see how quickly we can finish the job so we can brag about it to anyone who'll listen.
By Friday or Saturday it's finally dawned on you, once again, that the reason you had so much fun is because, for the first time in a year, you've been able to be completely yourself. No hiding behind inhibitions or being scared to participate. Being scared to participate isn't allowed. By Saturday you're devastated that it's over. Why? For one, the biggest one, your friend's are gone for another year. For another, your camp experience and the campgrounds are gone for another year. And there's this touch of bitter sadness that the person who you've learned you are will have to be tucked away for another year. You do learn new ways to live life, but they can't all work outside of the camp world. It's a not a great deal.
So the week is over. You're packed and ready to go. Leaving on a jet plane and blah, blah. So you walk around and hug everyone who affected your life that week. You hug them a lot tighter than anyone you usually hug at home.
And you leave.
Sure there's Facebook, and little get togethers that produce camp friends. But it's never the same.
So... why do we love camp? Simple: because camp is real life. The rest of it is just a shroud. And a time when we can work up the money to go to camp.
Next year... next year.