By Meg Schwarz, co-editor of The View from the Moutain
These contradictions became particularly evident throughout the first weekend of camp, during which we opened 5 separate camps for campers of all ages and interests. It was, perhaps, appropriate that the weekend was book-ended with some of our oldest campers on Friday and Sunday while Saturday was devoted to opening sessions for our youngest campers, as some of the most beautiful camp contradictions can be found in the age differences amongst our campers. Last Friday morning found 8 high school students on the upper pavilion, ready to embark on a couple of extended camping trips with their fellow Explorers’ the Great-ers. All of these campers had been to Shrine Mont Camps before and while some of them were fresh-faced first timers at Explorers’ the Great, their comfort with camp was evident from the moment they arrived. Rather than emanating nervousness at the tasks that lay ahead of them (a difficult 3-day hike and a 20+ mile canoe trip) these young adults exuded a steady certainty which I imagine can only be found within those people who are so familiar with something that newness no longer frightens them. Though these campers were embarking on a new type of camp experience, their time at camp had taught them that they could handle whatever was coming their way with the help of their leader and their friends (and perhaps God fit into that mix somewhere along the way as well).
Opening registration for St. Andrew’s, Music and Drama I and St. Sebastian’s I 24 hours later, however, told a slightly different story. The sureness and composure of those teenaged campers was replaced with the apprehension and uncertainty of 9-year-old campers and their parents, many of whom were experiencing Shrine Mont Camps for the very first time. Parents seemed to hang on every word from their camp director’s mouths (“Send camper mail to this address! Closing worship will take place at this time! And please- no care packages!”) while their camper’s eyes darted nervously around, wondering who might be his or her new best friend this week. Gone was the ease with which the older campers left their parents and merged seamlessly with their ‘camp family’ as a certain questioning-process seemed to occupy the air under the Happy Pavilion instead: Did I choose the right camp for her? Did we pack everything that he will need? Is she going to be alright without me for a week? Am I going to be alright without him for a week? And then, slowly and almost unrecognizably, a slight shift began to occur. As families made their way through the registration line- checking on account balances and finding out cabin assignments- a certain warmth began to descend on the anxious crowd. “Perhaps,” it seemed that everyone was collectively digesting at once, “this won’t be quite as scary as we thought.”
Sunday afternoon found almost 100 campers (and their associated guardians) lined up on the upper pavilion, eagerly awaiting the beginning of their second-to-last or last session of St. George’s Camp. Many of these campers had been attending camp since they were 8 years old, but even those who were a bit newer to the St. George’s game were relaxed and completely sure of themselves in this space, their home-away-from-home. Looking on at the numerous reunions that were happening around me, I was reminded of the feeling one gets as they walk through the door of a familiar place, drop their bag by the stairs and kick off their shoes. These 14 and 15-year-old campers were settling in for an experience that, though sure to be different from previous years of camp, would fill them to the brim with enthusiasm, strength, sustenance and steady love- and they were ready to soak up every bit of it. They were, as the Explorers’ the Great campers before them, a far cry from the campers of yesterday who were setting foot on the pavilion for perhaps the first time ever.
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.