I’m sitting here in the aftermath of a wonderful weekend with the head counselors. As the washing machine hums away, I have some time for quiet reflection.
We spent Friday evening and all day Saturday working on leadership training, clarifying each head counselor’s job in detail, and focusing on all the behind the scenes things that have to happen for any camp — indeed for any business — to be successful.
In some ways it was a tiring weekend — in the invigorating way. It’s the good kind of tired that left me so stimulated with ideas and inspiration that I have to pause a moment and just take it all in.
Many hats make light work
The staff always enjoys being with each other. But the most wonderful part is the flow of ideas that help the team build a solid foundation from which to operate.
As the picture above shows, one of our sessions was on identifying the various jobs we do or “hats we wear” while working at camp. Nobody at Camp Alleghany wears only one hat. As head counselors and directors, we wear many hats to fit the many parts of our jobs. The hats in this exercise were a good visual tool to help explore this idea and foster a sense of shared responsibility across the board.
More than meets the eye
Another thing we discussed was the enduring importance of a camp like ours.
Camp girls (and college-age staff) are away from the stresses and pressures of school, away from technology, and in a safe place to learn who they are and who they can become. This is a tremendous opportunity for growth and self discovery. The key is working with that opportunity in the best way possible.
I shared with the staff that when I was a full-time teacher, upon arrival at camp each June, I would take all the tensions, stresses, and worries that had built up over the school year and mentally package them up in a little box. I would then leave that box next to where I parked my car and walk into camp just a little bit more breezily. My intent at camp was to be fully present with camp.
Then, when I left camp in August, I would greet that box anew. I’d pick it up to take back with me, pondering its contents on the ride back home.
Interestingly, somehow, it now had a much lighter feel. Could being at camp have made that box lighter? Or maybe the unique rhythms and priorities of camp life had just made the box feel lighter?
This seemed very plausible to me. And very comforting. I could really feel how camp builds and revitalizes one’s inner strength, making every day demands year round much easier to handle.
As many of you may know, I’ve been retired from teaching nearly two years now. I have fewer things to worry about, and more time to work on camp things. But some how, I still feel “lighter” when I leave camp each August.
It’s not that I want to divide life into the world “out there” and the camp world “in here,” with one being bad and the other good.
It’s more that camp as a kind of “retreat” has the capacity to nourish my soul and renew my perspective in a way that makes the rest of the year shine a little more brightly, too. It’s like I keep a piece of that lantern in my heart even when I’m away. No wonder I treasure that time at camp so much!
–Bonnie Dawson, Head of Special Events, Camp Alleghany for Girls