Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Sense of Place

Back when camp started, I wrote here about finding my place at camp.

Over the past week, I've realized that I've done that. It took my leaving for four days for my sorority leadership conference [where I've definitely found my place, but that's another blog post] and coming back, plus the events of the past week, for me to truly recognize that.

One way manifested itself as soon as I was back. A number of people told me they missed me, including the junior staff who work with me at Arts & Crafts. One of them even told me, "Lee, I'm not gonna lie. When camp first started I was worried about working with you, but I've really enjoyed it. It just didn't feel right when you weren't here."

Several senior staff members have come up to me and said something like, "We're glad you're back. Can't believe you're leaving at the end of this term. We don't want you to go." One of them in particular, who I knew from the get go would be somewhat hard to crack, went further and said, "You've won us over - that's pretty impressive, coming from a group of 20 year olds."

The night before Lazy Day, I ended up helping in the canteen during the big "89 Party," even though I technically wasn't on duty, and was thanked profusely by the Senior Staff on duty - "we couldn't have done this smoothly if you had not helped."

So that's good. One of my concerns when camp started has been put to rest. But more than that, a shift happened in my relationship with the directors this week:

Several years ago, what everyone labels as "the plague" hit camp. It took out over 80% of the campers and staff. The memory of that has haunted directors since, and they are ever vigilant not to allow that to occur again. So this week, when a stomach virus seemed to be taking hold of some campers, the directors went into crisis mode. Ironically, this happened on Lazy Day, right after my rather idyllic morning.

Thursday afternoon they asked all of us to help make sure things were clean, and I worked to disinfect the canteen to the best of my ability. I got the canteen open, and within about 10 minutes of my being there, one of the directors came in and told me they were going to pull me from my afternoon duties to run a hospital ward of sorts in the Boys' Directors Cabin. They didn't want it to be fun for the campers, but they did want it to be a place for people to rest and for us to be able to evaluate how they are feeling prior to sending them back into activities with the rest of the campers. If they were truly sick, they'd go to the infirmary, where we had kids dealing with the stomach virus. If they weren't, we'd send them back to activities after watching them for 4-6 hours.

I ended up doing this from 2:30-8:30, with a short break for dinner. They said they would find someone to relieve me, but my response was that if there really was an issue, it made more sense for only one person to be affected rather than risk more of the staff getting sick. No one really argued with me. I quickly had the place running the way I felt it should be - quiet, no talking inside where people were laying down. One of the directors overheard my conversation with one of the campers [who many of us had determined was faking it as a way to get attention] that was firm, but not mean, and got on the radio and said, "We chose well - Lee is perfect for this." [For the record, everyone seems to be feeling much better. If there was a crisis, we averted it. If there wasn't, then campers who needed a place to rest got it.]

Since then, I have led vespers and given the vespers talk, and a number of people came up to me and said, "That was the best one so far this summer." I was asked to help with the flag raising today and tomorrow. I was thanked by another director for my work on Thursday, and relieved from duty last night, but I chose to stay involved - I had to be at the event anyway, and it turns out that I was able to problem solve a few situations that ended up causing him not to worry as much.

My point, and I'll mix some metaphors here, but they all work: I've become a part of the fabric of camp, a part of the rhythm. A lot of what I've done is behind the scenes, but that's what makes things work well. But more importantly, I've developed a reputation - and that is one of cheerfully helping out wherever I'm needed. My goal for the summer was to do just that, and to help make those precious camp memories for the campers happen.

I'm already feeling a sense of melancholy, which I'm working to suppress - I really don't want to leave next weekend. In the meantime, I'm here now. And I'm enjoying every single minute of it.

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