I got into a conversation recently with a friend who had never experienced summer camp. Neither he, his bride, or his children had every been a part of the party and was honestly asking what all the fuss was about.
I fumbled around a bit about the joy our campers feel, the crazy evening activities, the benefits of being outside, the ‘no technology’ allowed, etc. Then I hit on the theme, the principle, the core of the matter:
The inter-web is ripe with studies and articles on the effect of loneliness in America right now. With the rise of technology and general connectivity, there has actually been a fall in true connection – face to face, shoulder to shoulder interaction.
Our kids today have no understanding, no conception of the world before the tech we all now enjoy. (And, let’s face it – we do enjoy it!) Like any generation, they have a hard time looking at the world as a place that has held thousands and thousands of generations before them.
They’ve no idea that not long ago, community was built around the dinner table. Fast food and takeout weren’t around three generations ago. Before that, community was centered around the hearth and homestead… for a couple thousand years. Prior to that happy development, community was focused around the campfire… for tens of thousands of years.
There is something in us that reaches out for those much older ‘campfire’ days.
In our modern world, we live longer, eat better, know more than any previous generation. There are so many wonders of the modern world – from the making of a ‘simple’ pencil to a mission to Mars – that it’s hard to fathom.
And yet… a lot of us are lonely. We live a life without a lot of meaningful connection. We lack the presence of others. Even with all our wonderful, incredible advances, we yearn for the simple connection of present, engaged others.
In my experience, there is little out there that offers such a connection than summer camp. To quote Kurt Vonnegut:
“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”
That’s exactly what the right camp does for each child (and staff member!)
Not every camp is the right one for each child. That’s up to the child and the parent to decide upon. However, when you find the right fit, there is no better way to forge the connection to a community than summer camp.
You live together. You play together. You laugh, cry, argue, run, eat, rough-house, giggle and guffaw together. Each person is heading in the same direction, for the similar enough reasons, as the rest of the crew. Together.
When the power goes out, you all party like it’s 1718. When the thespians put on an incredible play, you all celebrate with them. When there is a birthday, you all sing and cheer.
That is community. That is summer camp. And, I want more of it.
Happy Holiday, everyone. See you next summer, if not before.