So Much More than Fun
Sometimes, I wish that I could travel back in the time. What would it be like to go back to the beginning? Revisit 1972, which was my first summer at camp as a counselor? Or maybe back to 1975, my first summer as a camp director?
Though 45 years have gone by since my first year at camp, the magic is still ever present. After several return visits to and many summers spent at the camps that shaped me, I can say with 100% confidence that I still relish the joy, spirit and memories of those days. My appreciation for these experiences has only increased over the years. It is obvious that something profound happened to me during this time which changed the trajectory of my life. Why did these experiences have such a powerful effect on my life? How did this social, cultural, Jewish experience so dramatically change my life path? It’s not just me. I have heard from hundreds and hundreds of alumni over the past 45 years that camp changed their lives too. They tell me, “Camp shaped who I am” “It defined my Jewish identity” and “Camp helped to determine who I want to be.”
Summer camp has been a second home to me and thousands of children; a community of friends and a range of memories that remain in our hearts and minds forever. After a child returns from camp and catches up on sleep, all parents ask, “Was it fun? Did you meet friends? Did you like your counselors?” But, the camp experience is much deeper and broader than just these fundamental questions. Although “fun” shouldn’t be discounted, the camp experience is much more pervasive and significant. It’s at camp where kids learn about creativity, build self esteem, and develop character, life and social skills, and interpersonal competencies. We help to create good souls to be a better person through a communal experience that frames and shapes a healthy childhood.
The camp experience has its own culture, a different environment, new perspectives on life, attitudes and personalities. In the days and weeks after your child returns home from camp, it’s time to start asking the important questions. What your child reflects on in the aftermath is what will likely live beyond the fun experience. After your camper returns home, here are some important questions to ask during the initial days and weeks to help them process the experience.
- What was one of your favorite parts of camps?
- What did your experience or feel that you never have before?
- What are you coming home with? (Other than lots of dirty clothes!)
- How was it to be part of a Jewish community at camp?
- What challenged you?
When you ask your campers these questions, you are getting at more than just the experience that is measured by a moment, you are getting to the core of the deeper life experience. You are encouraging your campers to reflect and to be thankful. Thankful for the skills they learned, thankful for the friends they made, the spirit they were infused with, thankful for the values they have acquired, thankful for this newfound community where people care, help each other out, lend an ear, support and understanding.
When you ask your campers these questions, you will see the glimmer of the lifelong positive impact that only comes from an overnight camp experience. We can’t wait to see everyone again at Chi for summer 2017 and beyond!