Tuesday, November 29, 2016

"This video makes me want to come back. I would feel really left out if I didn't go."

Smooney texted me this afternoon, "Have you seen camp's new video yet? Go watch it right now."

Tecumseh always produces great media-- but this one may be the very best one yet. This is a message that makes me so proud to call camp home, proud that I'm part of the staff, proud that I get to be part of something that is changing the world. For any one who doubts the importance of camp-- here is your proof that nothing is more important. Watch the video here.

Why We Need Summer Camp

Summer camp is fun. It's a chance for kids to try things like water trampolines, slides, climbing, crafts and more. We hear from kids and counselors how much fun they had. It's one of the first questions a parent asks when they pick up their kids, "Did you have fun?" And I feel like I can say the answer is almost always, "Yes." We're good at fun. But if we're basing everything around fun, we can't win on fun. 

Fun is important. But it's not why we exist. Fun isn't our business. Our business is growth. The growth that we're seeking isn't about the number of acres we have or the buildings we walk into. The growth that we strive for every day is personal, individual growth. Every activity, every event, every location is specifically designed to help kids and counselors grow. Because this growth is what our world needs.

We need people who will learn respect. We need people who can get along with someone who is different. We need people who can talk, who can communicate and who can compromise. We need people who will one day go on to work in government and realize it's not about black versus white, or red versus blue. 

We need people who have grown in trust-- who do what they say they are going to do because they know others are counting on them.

Our world needs people who know what initiative looks like. Who aren't afraid to work hard even when no one is looking. Who don't expect everything to be handed to them and don't give up when it's not easy.

We need people who invest in friends and strive to make new ones. People who don't just talk to people who look, act and sound like them. People who show empathy and caring and working with others and realize they have more in common with the people around them then they have differences.

Our country needs joyful people. Not people who smile for the selfie so everyone thinks they have it all together. But people who strive to bring joy and happiness to a situation when it's easier to grumble. People who talk well of others when they aren't there instead of gossiping and slandering. 

And our world needs people who have faith. Not faith that divides and segregates, but faith that God loves them and wants them to love others. Faith that a relationship with God is more important than all the money in the world. And people who believe that no matter how much we mess up God is standing there to forgive and nothing can separate us from Him. 

Without sounding too arrogant, we're pretty good at this. Campers even go out and raise money so that other campers can experience the same thing. Parents tell us how camp changes their kids, how their kids grow during that week or two every summer. This is why we need summer. This is why we do what we do. We are building kids and adults who go into the world showing trust, respect, initiative, friendship, joy and faith. And that's why we have to get better at doing what we do. Our world can't handle us settling, giving in or giving up. We are on a mission of great importance.

I couldn't believe in that message more.

I still haven't figured out how to be a summer camp counselor year round, so I'm taking camp with me out into the rest of the world. Monday morning I met with my girls. These 8th graders are world changers. They believe in kindness, in silliness, in making decisions they can be proud of. They're growing in their faith, growing in friendships, growing in responsibility. They're amazing.

And these HS girls, my party people, are five of the greatest people I've ever known. They are changing the world around them by living a better story-- being someone that others go to when they need help, seeking out people who need a friend, choosing to invest their time and energy into things that might seem silly to the rest of the world. I'm so proud of them.

I recently got invited to join a Book Club and just finished December's pick-- Small, Great Things by Jodi Picoult. I've always been a fan of this author but this book is so important. When it comes to controversial subjects, I think we can always learn the most about ourselves and what we believe by hearing a story and giving a name and a face to the conflict. This book dives deep into the racial split that has been filling our country with fear, shame, judgment, defensiveness and misunderstanding. It's a lot. And it wasn't a comfortable read. But it's important.

"As Christina held my hand and Ms. Mina held Mama's there was a moment-- one heartbeat, one breath-- where all the differences in schooling and money and skin color evaporated like mirages in the desert. Where everyone was equal, and it was just one woman helping another. That miracle, I've spent thirty-nine years waiting to see again."

The countdown is getting serious. We are only 11 days away from the greatest event of the year-- the 8th Annual Winter CILT Reunion. Nearly 100 of last summer's CILTs will return to our home away from home for 25 hours of pure magic, whimsy and friendship.

One of the truths that Camp T is so good at teaching? It's this...

Hopefully that's a message we all carry home with us and share with our people. Not everyone gets Maddie and Cass, but that's totally ok. I love seeing the two of them become friends this year, an unlikely pair, and embrace one another's quirks and goofiness. They are my kind of people.

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