By Emily Rutledge
I saw you, during that opening in the pavilion this week as you dropped your babies off at camp. I was the chaplain, the one that prayed during the opening and watched carefully as you each worked your way through the registration line to get your child’s cabin number and head up the mountain. See, what you may not have known was that across that field in a home I could see from where we were standing were my two little people; 4 years old and 2 years old. They are here with me as a chaplain for the next week and a half. As each of you walked up that mountain to settle your camper and then walked back again to get into your car and drive away, I prayed for you. My mama heart could not imagine that feeling. Maybe this isn’t new for you and the anxiety was less, maybe it was your first time and you worked hard to hide any concerns you were feeling.
We feel it, don’t we? When we are responsible for a human and then drop them off with people we know are good people but know nothing about -- there is a tiny knot in our stomach that forms. We worry about whatever we have to worry about for our particular kid; bullying, breaking a bone, missing home, food allergies, lack of a filter, sleep difficulties, and all the things that make our kid our kid.
Here is the report from the front lines: they are okay, better than okay actually.
Those counselors. Their whole self is invested in your child finding community. I’ve seen it. They seek the outlier. They spend their time knowing your child, connecting them to others, and finding ways for them to grow life-long friendships. They worry and pine and pray over the child that is struggling and refuse to give up no matter how many failed attempts at connection or brush-offs they receive. They come back early from their days off just so they don’t miss their favorite evening activity with them. They are all in.
Those medical forms. People read them… carefully. The nurse is of course fully aware of all issues but your child’s nut allergy or asthma is the first thing covered in the first staff meeting that they have when your child arrives on the mountain. No one is playing around with allergies or illness. There is care and kindness and attention paid to each child’s individual needs. Those forms are not looked at once and thrown aside. Cabinets are cleared, bunks chosen, and daily plans made to be sure each child is safe and well-cared for. Also, those emergency medicines are no small thing! Those counselors are ready at any second for the worst to happen… fanny pack on hip.
Those kids missing home. They exist. They miss you… and they are never ever left alone to do so. Those first few days can be hard as they miss the people who care for them at home. When they feel that creep in, the people here show them how worthy of love and time they are. They are learning about the body of Christ in a tangible and concrete way. Yes, your child may have shed a tear at some point. No, it was not unrecognized or pushed away. They were given an extra dose of love, a few more hugs, and lots and lots of reminders of why camp is exactly where they need to be… we would be incomplete without them.
And finally, yes, they have found friends. We are mid-way through St. George’s III and those kiddos are connecting and laughing and being ridiculous together. They already have cabin inside jokes and nicknames. They are walking arm in arm, singing silly songs, giving high-fives, and being part of something positive and life-giving and real.
My two little people are here with me and I have to tell you, I’m so glad you raised the kids you’ve raised. They have taken my children in, loved them, played with them, and made them feel safe and secure. Someday, I bet, your child will be my children’s St. G’s counselors and that makes the knot in my stomach for drop-off in 5 years much much smaller.
So no matter what totally non-detailed answer they give you about camp… I caught them having the time of their lives, and they are thankful for you loving them enough to send them here!
Blessings and camp joy,
Spreading the good news of Shrine Mont Camps into the Valley of the World.
The View from the Mountain is written by a rotating cast of staff writers and contributors.