How to Grow Up at Summer Camp.
30% deep gratitude + 30% fulfilled joy + 40% the sorrow of loss = the last day of summer camp.
Four years ago, I spent a summer as Moose. For ten weeks, I ministered to third and fourth graders, middle schoolers, and their families, and that ministry often looked like letting the kids drag me underwater in the pool, or hitting them with colored-chalk-filled socks, or occasionally dunking a middle schooler head-first into the creek.
Four years later,
I’m back at camp as a camper, watching leaders younger than me minister to kids in the same ways. Today, camp ended, for both us campers and all those leaders too. There’s a very particular feeling that comes with the last day of summer camp. It’s a strange mingling of joy for memories made, gratitude for the work of God in special places, and the pain of knowing that something special and beautiful is over.
Every time I return to Forest Home,
I’m always happy to be there, and grateful to remember all that God has done in that one valley. However, camp as a 22 year old brings a special kind of sorrow. I’m not a 21 year old college kid anymore. I’m not an 18 year old camp counselor, and I’m certainly not a 16 year old camper. Each of those ages brought their own particular joy and gratitude at Forest Home (and also their own awkwardness, big hair swooshes, and an even bigger ego), but I can’t help mourning the loss of the particular joys from each of those years. Yet, that pain mingles so closely with joy and gratitude that whenever I actually feel it I can only cry and grin and feel deeply fulfilled all at once.
I felt this way at my church’s high school graduation, and my last day of undergrad, and every single time I’ve ever left a camp. As I rest in that feeling today, I’m left with the sense that maybe this is just what growing up feels like. There’s a pain knowing that what was will never be again, but also a gratitude and a joy for the fact that it happened in the first place. I think, just maybe, that if I placed that feeling right, then growing up isn’t so bad. So here’s to the feeling I’ll have at 25, and 30, and 50, as I go back to camp, and then watch as everyone leaves.