Unlike a maze, a labyrinth only has one opening to enter and exit from. During the camp season, campers and counselors use the labyrinth for prayer, meditation, and spiritual guidance. For me, the labyrinth has always been a symbol of the timelessness of Shrine Mont Camps. No matter how long you have been away you know that it’s always there.
The first time I walked to labyrinth at Shrine Mont I was sixteen and a MAD session III camper. I had been to Shrine Mont for church retreats before but had never been to camp until that year. When I got to camp I was so nervous and shy, I thought no one would like me and I wouldn’t make any friends. I learned quickly that this would not be the case. At this time I felt lost in my own skin, my peers at school bullied me, and I felt like I was alone. When I got to camp I realized that for the first time in a long time I would be loved for who I am. At one of our worship services that session our counselors and chaplain had all of us walk to labyrinth. They said that it was a time for prayer and reflection. When walking to the middle, think about reflecting on yourself and your concerns, and then on the way back think of thanksgivings and praises you have.
When I entered the labyrinth I walked along thinking about the past couple of years, how I felt lost, hopeless, with nowhere to turn. As I focused on these bitter moments I felt as if God was walking right beside me, carrying me towards the middle. As I walked back I thanked God for leading me to Shrine Mont because at that point in time I don’t know what I would have done without it. After I left the labyrinth I sat at the edge of grass looking out at the trees and started to cry, letting out everything that had been bottling up for those past years. Our director at the time, David Churchman, sat down and put his arm around me. It was in that moment that I realized I didn’t feel so alone anymore.
For third session this year we once again returned to walking the labyrinth with our campers for a worship service. Six years later and being a fourth year counselor at MAD camp, I often look back to the sixteen year-old who I used to be and reflect on the person that I am now. As we walked and sang songs, instead of focusing on all the bad in the past, I was present to what was happening in front of me. I saw campers take time to reflect and pray about how they were feeling. They took the time to focus step by step on the path in front of them. I thought about how not long ago I was one of them, and that these campers would turn into such caring, respectful, and intelligent young adults.
As I exited the labyrinth I walked around and saw one of our campers by herself crying. I sat down next to her for a few minutes and we watched the trees together. When we circled up again at the end of worship she came up to me and said, “Thank you for sitting with me, I didn’t want to be alone.”
Having something as symbolic and as timeless as a labyrinth has given us all opportunities to think back and reflect on the lives we have made. Without camp I think my life would have gone very differently, I am the person I am today because I stepped onto the Happy Pavilion at sixteen, diving head first into a community I had never been in before. As counselors we strive for our campers to know how much they are loved. As a camper I felt so much love from my counselors that I wanted to be there for my campers just like they were for me. At Shrine Mont we are “a place apart” from everything else in the world. It’s how we take what we’ve learned from here into the rest of the universe is the hard part. For me, and hopefully for campers as well, I hope they know that they are loved and are important to changing our world for the better.