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I Watched

By Michelle R. Lampert

I spent a month volunteering at Pilgrim Pines Summer Camp this summer. I did a lot of amazing, wonderful activities. I hiked. I swam. I climbed. I cared. I cried. I sang. I worked. But mostly, I watched.

I watched 16 and 17 year olds spend a week selflessly caring for and teaching children life lessons as counselors. I watched them break down from loving our kids so much. And I watched as they put themselves back together into new and amazing and compassionate adults.

I watched children and adults alike welcome campers with intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities to be completely integrated into the camp community.

I watched campers be unable to distinguish between adults with disabilities and adults who are neurotypical.

I watched teenagers many would classify “too obsessed with their phones” share in deep, intelligent, educated, conversation.  And I watched them “just be kids” without pressure from the world.

I watched students and those in the workforce alike give up their summer jobs to work for free because we know the future is so much better when these already amazing children are able to experience camp.

I watched high schoolers defy the idea that all teenage social life functions on cliques and cattiness. By welcoming and accepting and being vulnerable in ways adults often struggle to.

I watched campers help each other through adversity and difficulty. Through physical and sexual assault trauma, through loneliness, through stress.

I watched a camper apologize for his homophobia and hurtful comments before hugging the gay men he was scared to share a cabin with at the beginning of the week.

I watched campers celebrate together through the good times! Celebrations of new achievements and new experiences. Celebrations of successfully getting “Charlie Chicken.”  Celebrations of zero garbology and celebrations of grilled cheese!

I watched campers of all ages realize the power of their words. One camper’s utterance of the word “wow” during week turned into a chant repeated multiple times a day throughout all four weeks of camp. “Clayton the Naturalist! WOW!”

I watched campers learn. Learn about ecology, biology, and astronomy. Learn about homesickness and the difficulties of independence. Learn about friendship, love, and how to be there for others. Learn about racism, sexism, ableism, and discrimination. Learn about advocacy, politics, and peaceful resistance.

I watched counselors and campers create lifelong friendships, memories, and belief systems that will be the backbone of the rest of their lives.

I watched a 10 year old who spent the week in the boys cabin begin to express a desire to be in the girls cabin by participating in the girls cabin talent show act with a wig and new name. And I watched every counselor and almost every camper give them unconditional love and support. And I watched their 9, 10, and 11 year old friends stand up to those who were unsure or less than supportive.

I watched a 4 year old boy repeatedly remove his pants in public just because he was excited about his Wonder Woman underwear because “she’s the strongest person I know! Look! I’m strong too!! GRRRR.”

I can’t even begin to explain to you all how wonderful the future is going to be in the hands of these wonderful people.  So I invite you to come experience it for yourself!  Experience God’s family and community at Fall Fun for All. Experience the intelligence, kindness, and excitement of our middle and high school youth as a camper or counselor at Winter Wonder Camp. Experience growth and what it’s like to be a camper again at It’s A Spring Thing adult camp. Or come watch all of this and so much more at Summer Camp 2018!!




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