Today (Dailah’s 7th birthday) we were in the main lodge at camp for breakfast. Every few minutes a camp counselor would come up to Dailah, pick her up and twirl her around, whisper something in her ear and then put her back down. She always came away from these experiences with a really big grin.
Multiple times a day I recognize how blessed we are to live at camp. Though it certainly has its drawbacks, there are far too many good things that outweigh those less than optimal things.
Zach will often come home with stories about specific counselors. Things they have been through in their lives, hardships they have overcome. I’m constantly surprised by these stories because to me these beautiful people are just part of our camp family.
It occurred to me the other reason I was surprised these young adults were sometimes the kids in school who felt out of place is because camp is a place where the ragamuffins all feel welcome. As I looked around the lodge I saw people from every gender (including one transexual), race and nationality. We have tattooed people, the super religious, gay/lesbian/bisexual, long hair and short hair. We have the choir peeps and the jocks. The sorority/fraternity and the bookworm. And though they have their fair share of squabbles they all coexist in this amazing space of love and acceptance.
Zach told me at one of his supervisor meetings they were discussing dress codes and had settled on a basic uniform. Then he said, “Look, I think this makes sense for the other Y’s. It looks professional and welcoming. If you want us to do that at camp, I absolutely will. But at camp we are different. We like that about each other. These counselors come to camp because they are loved for all of their uniquenesses. That extends from their hair to their piercings to the way they dress. I don’t want that to go away because I think the kids that come to camp can sense that. I think they see our counselors and know that this might be the only place in the world where they fit in. So I’ll do what you ask here but I’m hopeful you’ll let that continue.”
Perhaps that’s what I love most about camp. I see a teenage male wearing a makeshift cape to camp and no one teasing him for it. I read the notes from campers to counselors thanking them for making them feel loved beyond anything they had previously experienced, I read the Father’s Day card to Zach from a teenage girl who had never known the love of a dad until Zach “Maverick” came into her life.
Because I’m not in the thick of the day-to-day operations (that can often bog down and make one forget the experiences of camp) I get to stand in awe of the powerful transformations that happen in both counselor and camper. I get to think about and pray for these counselors who become my children’s aunties and uncles for months (sometimes years!) at a time. Once in awhile I even get to lament the fact that I was never able to experience these same things when I was their age.
But my overwhelming feeling is that of gratitude that there is a place for us all. I love knowing that there are still pockets of our culture that celebrate differences rather than judge them. And I am so grateful I live here and am a witness to it every day.
So grateful my ragamuffin family lives in a community where we are accepted and are part of a tiny revolution of people trying to love the previously felt unloveable.