something to write home about
It's May 24th and I've been home for about a month. Staff training at Camp Tecumseh starts next week, and the following Sunday, camp will be overwhelmed with cars full of kiddos unloading plastic drawers and duffle bags all ready for the best week of the summer. It’s the time of year when school starts getting out and the pools open. Everyone is marking the beginning of summer with boating, sun kissed bike rides to the ice cream shop, and late night bonfires on the beach. I love summer, because this time of the year always means one thing for me: Camp.
Except, not this year. I have been having the best time at home, but my heart has been somewhere else these past few weeks. I keep wondering why it doesn’t feel like summer yet. Why am I not starting each morning with a thankful heart? What am I missing? This past weekend I got to see some great friends from camp. When driving to their homes, me and my best friend took the same route we take to get to camp each year. It’s a route I know by heart. The last time the two of us drove it together we were in our blue staff polos and wooden name tags. Our backpacks were tossed in the back seat filled with Day Camp awards, first aid kits, and lots of friendship bracelet string. Last summer, we would climb into the car fresh from 12 hours of sleep (a true delicacy as a camp counselor) and spend the drive chatting about the past week, the next week, and what we hope for the rest of the summer. As we drove past the windmills that mark the last few miles of the trek to camp this past weekend, I almost instinctually got off at the Brookston Fowler exit. My heart broke when I realized I wouldn’t be taking it anytime soon.
I had some good reasons to not work at camp this summer. I knew that after a demanding year of personal and academic growth I would want to spend some time with my family and friends. Each time I came home to Chicago over breaks this past year, my heart was so full and so comfortable that I knew that’s where I wanted to be this summer. With that in mind, I got a job here working at my Church. I made all these decisions on my own, and I was confident that I was making the right ones. Now that I've gotten home for the year and have had more time to slow down and let God in to my day to day decision making, I have realized that I made those choices without him. I didn’t pray, or really consider where God would want me and what he would want me to be doing this summer. I was thinking about myself: where would I feel the most comfortable and rested, where will I be able to spend ample time working on myself and growing in my own faith, where will I be able to spend time with my friends and family and get enough sleep? The answer was always home, but after a month of being here I realized that the “home” I was thinking of isn’t my house in Chicago, but camp.
I know, that was so cliché. I even rolled my eyes a little at that one, but it’s so true. Camp has been my refuge from life’s craziness for the past ten years. I have gotten through so many life changes and difficult seasons by holding on to the reality that camp would be there for me every summer. I knew that no matter how much the people or the world around me would change in a year, camp would always be the same: a home full of genuine, loving, God-filled people who always bring out the best in me. I knew it would be hard not going back this summer, but I didn’t imagine it feeling like this. It’s like my body and mind are here in Chicago, ready to start my summer job and hang out with my friends, but my heart in is Brookston, IN and every time I get in my car everything in me wants to hop on the expressway and drive to go find it. I’ve spent so much time sitting in my room wondering if there is any way I could go back, searching the camp website to see if they accept “fill-ins,” plotting my return. Logically I know the only time I will be back at camp this summer is at closing campfire and to drop off my little sister, but my heart refuses to accept it. Even sitting here writing that, my chest feels tight and anxious as I realize its truth.
So, Tecumseh, even though I won’t be seeing much of you this summer, thank you for being my home.
Thanks for the lessons you have taught me and the values you have instilled in me. Thanks for teaching me what true joy, trust, responsibility, initiative, friendship and faith look like in action. Thanks for being the first place I learned to truly be myself. I am my best self at camp, and I have learned how to be more like that “camp” version of myself 365 days a year, because of it. Thanks for teaching me how to be brave and for reminding me it’s not worth it to go through your life with regrets and “what if"s
Thanks for setting the fashion trends for the rest of my life. I will never not think that one piece swimsuits are the bomb, and I will always wear my pink crocs around campus no matter how many weird looks I get. Thanks for the homemade tutus, fanny packs, and heart shaped sunnies. Thanks for inspiring all the wolf-shirts, Walmart T-shirts, and tie-dye in my closet. It might not be worn as often these days, but it will never ever be given away.
Thanks for the best friendships I have ever known. Because of camp, I have met people who have changed my life forever. I can confidently say that the friends I've made at camp will last a lifetime, and the people that come into my life each summer undoubtingly make me a better person and a more curious and courageous Christian. I am thankful for friends who will stay up late to talk about the important things on the porch of Scheumann lodge, and always answer my calls when I need someone. Thanks for sharing your life with me, and thanks for wanting to be a part of mine. Thanks for always picking up, showing up, and pushing me to be the best person and friend I can be. To my girl gang: thanks for making “boolin” a lifestyle. Thanks for having my back no matter what, and never judging my mistakes. Thanks for telling me what I need to hear especially when it hurts and being there for me when I need a friend even when I don’t deserve it. I have never laughed harder than I have with you four. Whether we are driving down River Road in the pouring rain, silently adventuring through the woods, laying on the top of my car in the middle of a corn field, or eating pizza on the floor of my empty house, I know that I will always have a good time with you. You’re the ones who will be there at my wedding, who my kids will refer to as family, and the people I see in my life as long as I live. You are the definition of a home team, and I see God working in my life through you every time we are together.
Thanks for showing me the joy that comes from living a life with Jesus. I grew up in a Catholic household, but I can confidently say that I had never felt the real presence of God until I went to camp. Thanks for teaching me that worship doesn’t have to be in a church, and that I can talk to God like I talk to a friend. Thanks for introducing me to songs that reveal the amazing truth of the Gospel and have carried me through all the seasons of my life. Thanks for pushing me to ask the hard questions and showing me what faith in action looks like. Thanks for giving me the courage to continue pursuing my faith even away from camp. I bought my first Bible, found my own home church, and started a relationship with Jesus all because I was loved so well at Tecumseh.
Thanks for my campers. You can learn a lot at school in ten months, but you can learn even more from a group of seven year olds in a week. To the kiddos: Thanks for teaching me to be myself. Your love of life and genuine sense of wonder reveal the joy and adventure that can be found in the mundane each and every day. Your passion inspires me to love what I love, and be 100% of who I am no matter what. You model honesty better than anyone I have ever met. Thanks for the hugs, drawings, and all the sweet things you say. Thanks for helping me discover my passion for working with kids and for inspiring me to become an educator when I grow up. Thanks for teaching me how to love selflessly without expecting anything in return. Thanks for being rock stars and troopers, and for believing that magic trees make you run faster. Without that, I don’t think we would ever make it to chapel in time.
Tecumseh, you have my whole heart. To the counselors working this summer: Embrace every little moment. I know that you’re tired and you can’t tell if they replaced the coffee with decaf again. I know that it’s the hardest job you’ll ever love, and that you are going to have campers who might challenge you in ways you never expected. I know you might want to cry and give up and pack up your car in the middle of the night to drive home. I know, because I have been there. I also know that not going back this summer is breaking my heart, so even when its hard know that you are in one of the most special places in the world doing the most important job. The world needs you. We need people who will invest in our future. We need you to stand up to the overwhelming evil in this world and remind kids that love always wins, no matter what. We need counselors who will allow kids to have the experience that I had, that you had, and that thousands of kids have each summer that keep them coming back. I want you to know that I am so proud of you, and I am cheering you on. I want nothing more than to be there alongside you.
God willing, I'll be back next summer. Until then, Thanks for everything, Tecumseh.