The spiritual idea of camp, as seen from a “lifer’s” perspective

The Spiritual Idea of Camp: Reflecting on the lessons of summer 2012  Part of the Building Blocks of Healing Series

By Ellen Powell

Ellen2I’ve been coming to Crystal Lake since I was eight years old. If you know me, you’ll know the story: my British parents, never having understood the American craze for a place where you voluntarily spent the summer without creature comforts, nevertheless determined to send me to camp. All other camps being over for the summer by the time school got out in England, they sent me for two weeks to Crystal Lake. Of course, they thoroughly expected me to hate it, and that would be the end of that experiment. When they picked me up, however, I cried; I never wanted to leave, and spent every year yearning for those few weeks of summer. I haven’t missed a summer since.

Yet in the past year, somewhere between the college application process, exams
and extra-curricular activities, camp has taken on a deeper meaning than it once
had. No longer is my happiness confined to those few halcyon weeks of summer,
to the mountains or to the activities. That’s right… I finally understand all those
Packing-Day assemblies about ‘taking camp home,’ endlessly frustrating though
they were growing up. What? My life at home can never be as cool or filled with as much spiritual growth as this!

This deeper understanding was cemented by working at camp this summer. As
always, camp demanded no less than a perfect view of myself, of my fellow staff
members and of the campers. It provided me with challenges, as I juggled the needs of my cabin and the stables, planned assemblies late at night and threw myself wholeheartedly into the Blanquet (wasn’t it great?)


Ellen (top row, second from left) with her co-counselors and campers this summer

But somehow, it wasn’t easy anymore. When I was younger, just being at camp seemed to be enough to make the healings happen. This year, I really had to work at them. I had to conquer my fear and see that everything we really need is provided for us. And it was – there was always somebody around to support me when I needed it most, and in turn I found myself able to give more than I’d ever dreamed to campers and staff alike. Working through a healing of a back injury served as an opportunity to connect with campers on a challenging overnight. Along the way, I learned more about God – and myself – than I ever had.

After this summer, I’m confident that I’ve gained a deeper understanding of what
camp is all about. It’s not the human timing and physical location of camp which
makes spiritual growth happen; rather, the uplifted atmosphere raises our thought, giving us the tools to meet challenges wherever and whenever they may occur.

So yes, I still want to live and work at camp some day, but I’m very much aware
of the good we can do, the “camp-thought” we can tune in to, throughout the year
which helps us to rise higher in our understanding. This year, let’s share this
understanding and “bless the world” together.

If you have a story, healing or  insight you’d like to share that happened at camp, let us know! We love hearing from you: 

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3 Comments on “The spiritual idea of camp, as seen from a “lifer’s” perspective”

  1. After the very sad national events of this week, this dear blog illustrates clearly and concisely the deep need the world has for the nurturing and spiritual development that camp provides our young people. Thank you, Ellen, for “taking it into the world”.

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