They say the happiest place on earth is Disney World. I don’t know who they are, because if they think that statement is true, they have never been to camp.
There are all those cliché movies about camp, the ones where two people find love while canoeing or the athlete and the brain realize they aren’t that different when they sing a camp song. The thing is, those movies are right, not in that those things actually happen, but camp can be that wonderful, almost movie magic wonderful.
I was nine when my parents wanted me to try sleep away camp — but not just any sleep away camp — but one specifically for kids with Type 1 diabetes, which I had been diagnosed with when I was 6 years old. Little did I know that ten years from the day I stepped foot into my very first cabin as a camper, I would be stepping into that same cabin as a counselor.
I had seen this camp for ten years, but this year it seemed different in a good way, new possibilities, new lessons to learn, but it came along with a new type of fear, a fear that I couldn’t quite explain.
Being a counselor here was something I dreamed of for a very long time, because my counselor’s made a big impact in my life; they taught me kindness, responsibility, to be able to laugh at myself and compassion.
I am who I turned out to be because of these role models I got to spend my summer with.
So, I guess my fear was that I wouldn’t live up to what I wanted to be for these kids, I wanted to be that person they looked up to. I wanted to help them realize their potential, and in return without knowing it, they helped me realize mine.
My age group was 7-9 year olds, and this age group was perfect for me, coming in I knew these kids were smart, but what I learned, is how much they thrived off of the people around them.
They listen, really truly listen to what you have to say and they take it in; and while I was trying to teach them, how capable and amazing they were, they return the favor without knowing it. They love you for you, because they have no judgments or ideas of what is “cool” or “uncool.” they see a person and they base you on how you treat them.
There is a saying at my camp and it goes: “Meet them where they are, no matter who they are,” and with this age group, this is especially important. They are all so different, they like different things, have different opinions, different personalities, they are going through struggles that may not seem significant to us, but to them it’s the toughest thing they can think of.
Throughout the week I realized this saying really was the most important thing to do, because as you show them you love them and care for them, they trust you and open up to you. Soon you have a friend, and, more importantly: they have a friend.
No matter how young they are, we can learn from them. I know I did; I learned acceptance, love, silliness. While I knew going into being a camp counselor would change my life, I never realized it would change me. I am a different person coming out of this week; I am changed for the better, and that may sound too good to be true, but like I said, camp is like a movie.
I never wanted camp to end, but of course it has too, and I hope my campers can take a piece of me with them, something I taught them, a time they laughed at camp, a memory that can make them smile. When you turn from camper to counselor you realize, it’s not about you anymore, it’s about the kids. Because if you do it right, and you give your kids the best possible week, that feeling that you gave them, is everything you need.
In camp movies people are always finding their one true love, and while that is not always the case, it is a love story. You find love for yourself, and for your campers, a love of life and a love of changing for the better. Camp is a love story. If you’re reading this and you don’t understand how I feel, or why I feel this way, all I can say, like many other campers when they explain camp, I guess you had to be there.