When Camp Becomes Family

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main…

So begins John Donne’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” which is one of my favorite poems.

As I was reflecting on the much-too-short time I spent at camp working Mother-Daughter Weekend the past three days, I realized that I have been blessed with an awesome camp family. Camp is now to me what John Donne was talking about: a family, a unified group, an awareness that what happens to one of us happens to all of us.

I first worked at Riverview Camp this past summer, when I signed up to work the entire ten weeks. It was crazy, but I loved it. When I arrived back for this weekend, I caught up with friends I met over the summer, and I even met a few girls I had not worked with before. What was really cool was that we could talk about camp things like third, ropes, tribes, chicken wrap Tuesdays, oreo yum yum, and Fort Fun and everyone knew what we were talking about. It felt like a family because we shared common experiences and knew most of the same people. It felt like family because I was accepted.

I also learned something fantastic this weekend. I have been reading Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds by Pollock and Van Renken about children raised in multicultural environments, mostly in overseas contexts. One of the problems faced by adolescent TCKs is that they have difficulty finding role models who are in the next immediate stage of life. For example, TCKs being homeschooled on an island in the Pacific don’t interact with young adults from their passport (home) country very often. Or, American TCKs growing up in a boarding school in Africa may not have much contact with American college kids. Not having role models in the most immediate next stage of life makes it difficult for adolescents on the brink of adulthood to make educated decisions regarding post-secondary education, tasks of adulthood (e.g. driving, living away from parents, voting, cooking, etc), dating and relationships, etc.

It is important for people of all life stages, especially teenagers, to be able to model their lives and choices after consistent and positive role models. While everyone should be around people of all ages, a good age for a teenager’s role model is approximately five to ten years older than him or herself, give or take a few years. This is younger than their parents, but older than themselves. I like to call this the ten year difference because ten years is about half of a generation gap.

All of that to say that camp is a family because it has provided me with more role models: women I want to be like when I grow up. Some of them are twenty-something and happily single, others are older, married, with children. These women are stay-at-home moms, school teachers, school athletics workers, outdoor educators, college professors, musicians, graduate students, office employees, camp directors, and the like. They are real women, and I am blessed to know them and work alongside them, as I see them invest their summers and weekends into the lives of girls from across the southeast.

Staff Photo Summer 2013

Summer Staff 2013 – Photo Courtesy Riverview Camp

I am thankful for camp because it is a family. Sometimes we get on everyone’s nerves, sometimes we giggle like sisters, but I know I am accepted despite my crazy quirks. We rely on each other for so much, from being there on a regular basis to helping belay little kids up trees and towers. Even though I am an introvert, I love meeting new people, and it has been a blessing to get to know so many friends from my summer and weekend at camp.

Looking forward to heading back whenever I can!