I visited Camp of the Rising Son this week. It was wonderful visiting briefly with the camp staff and experiencing all the sights and sounds of camp again. I am truly amazed at how that place has shaped who I am today. Looking back, there are a few crystal clear moments that I remember impacting my life. Others are concepts and values that have become the backbone of my leadership and management philosophy.
One of the first things I learned is there must always be someone in charge. During my first three summers working at CRS, I served the campers as an Assistant Counselor or AC. The role of AC was to help serve the campers at meal times, help the Counselor in the cabin, and teach activities throughout the day. Waiting the table at meal times was the most daunting, especially when you are in Cheyenne cabin at the end of the dining hall. The Counselor’s job was to lead the group of campers and the AC through all the cabin’s activities. It was compared to the role of a family. The father is the leader and the mother helps and cares for all the needs of the family. I know, old fashion sounding, but it worked. This idea of service was so deeply-rooted in my camping philosophy when I became a Counselor, I would serve one meal each day. I wanted to serve my AC, April Gunn Duval, to show her how much I appreciated her. “Service before self” was the motto I learned quickly at CRS.
I have discussed the motto “camp is for the camper” a few times. I guess it is crazy to think that in putting others first you will be getting more out of the experience than if you put yourself first. So often the leadership at CRS would remind the young teenage and twenty-something staff that we were there to build relationships with the campers not each other. However, camp staff relationships would spring up without even knowing. There is a dynamic at camp that makes people want to open up and share life experiences. I think, because you share so much of your time with 12 kids and 50 staff members doing the same thing, eating the same food, living and working on the same schedule you simply bond.
Some of my best friends have come from CRS, Twin Lakes, Space Camp, and Aviation Challenge. Why? Because you share this dynamic, sometimes life changing, experience with another individual, and you want to stay in touch. You want to keep living on the mountain top that is camp! But everyone comes down from the mountain top. Each summer for years, I have experienced this blue phase. Call it a mini depression or just a slump, the point is I am sad when summer is over and all my new friends are at their homes and I am left behind. This all started at CRS. I remember telling my mom I missed having snack time at 830 each night before bed time when I returned home from camp.
The last thing I learned from CRS is to give all I have to camp. Give my heart, my soul, and even my earthly position to camp. At CRS there was a program closet with lots of costumes and props. In that dusty moth ball laden closet was a wedding gown. It wasn’t mine, I wasn’t married yet. It was Chief Margie’s. Chief Margie and her husband built CRS and she gave so much to that camp. She poured her heart into it each day.
My wedding gown is in the attic of my in-laws house. I don’t think Space Camp needs my wedding gown. The example of making your job fun and personal was instilled in me at a young age. However, recently I have been made to feel like a job is just a job, but it is so much more to me. If camp is for the camper then my job isn’t just a J-O-B. It is something more; it is something deeper and more dynamic.
In a day and age where weddings are the most precious thing in a woman’s life, I feel like the gift of a wedding gown to a program closet is the ultimate symbol of “camp is for the camper.” The camper experience is one of dynamic friendships and life changing days under the watchful eyes of the camp staff. If you pour yourself into your job and you give service to others, you will be rewarded by all the friendships you will make along the way. It is the gift that keeps on giving.