This summer marks the 8th year our oldest child will go to camp. She was nine the first time she went 10 hours and two states away from where we lived then, but the effort and experience proved well-worth it. To this day her annual camp time is one the highlights, if not the highlight, of every year.
She loves the activities, the surrounding beauty, the opportunity to thrive apart from mom and dad, the spirtial aspect and the leadership component she’s been afforded. But the #1 reason she goes back year after year are not these.
The #1 reason is for the friends she has made.
Friends who live in about five different states, yet stay connected year round through a constant group text. Friends who she calls when she is down. Friends who she confides in and receives encouragement from. Friends who share her joy over good news and good days.
Friends you would never guess see each other typically just once a year.
I write about this now, in January not June, because the majority of these friends have been convening at our house over this long weekend and another one was just here from California over New Years.
What I am observing is camp may be a safe bubble away from the real world, but the friendships are very real. Perhaps some friendships even more real than in real-world everyday relationships. It kind of doesn’t make sense because it seems at camp you could create yourself to be whoever you wanted others to think you are and no one would know any different. While I am sure this does happen, this is not the case with the girls gathered here.
So as we were sitting in the breakfast room Sunday morning, I asked them their thoughts and this is what I hear:
Camp may be a bubble away from the real world, but it is a welcome retreat away from the constant stress of the real world. With no cell phones, make-up, designer clothes, knowledge of family background, wealth or status, kids come together on a equal playing field. The pressures of constant comparison and the presssures to measure up and perform are minimized. Seeing who is doing what, how others look and what you are missing on social media is completely eliminated.
With this comes freedom! Freedom to be completely present. Freedom to actually talk, get to know and have fun with one another without the distraction of documenting any of it on social media or even thinking about what is happening outside of camp.
As shared experiences happen and bonds begin forming, there is safety. The kids can let their guards down, feeling safe to share and to be transparent. Again, this is not always true, but the girls here tell me they have felt no judgment and more grace in sharing their sin and struggles with each other and for them at least this has carried on past the confines of camp and into their real worlds.
I am so thankful for the role these girls play in my daughter’s life. I love that they love each other through everyday life issues even though they are not with each other in daily life. Their presence is present anyway even with them being hundreds, even thousand, miles away. For this reason, among others, I am thankful for camp and the shaping influence it is for my daughter, and also my sons!