For me, it’s the interactions between campers I see develop throughout every session. The friendships they form and the businesses they create make me wish this camp had existed when I was a teenager. And it all happens so quickly – a mere 17 days – yet this group acts like they grew up in the same town, on the same street.
At the beginning of this session I felt like I had just returned home from a vacation. I knew so much about the group who came back for a second year, and I couldn’t wait to catch up with them. But after just two weeks, I can’t even tell the difference between the two groups. It’s a wonderful feeling, and an amazement to see, the powerful connection of community that has formed here. Not a single one of these teens is still a “new” camper, and I believe every one of them will leave with more than they when they arrived.
The same will be true of me. During the last evening of every session, we make a campfire and do a sort of ritual where we break a stick in two. The first piece we leave to the fire while speaking about a favorite memory from camp that will always be here waiting for us, and then keeping a piece for the part of camp taken with us. I don’t know if this is a common ritual among overnight camps, but it’s the most emotional point of camp for me and tomorrow night will be even more so.
I’ve taken a one-year position in Jerusalem beginning October, and so ending what has felt like a lifetime at Camp Inc. though it’s only been two summers. However, I know that a piece of this place will travel with me, and I don’t mean the sticks that I have/will save. My bags may have a little more in them, small notes, cards and mementos from campers and staff, but it’s what those items represent that will continue to travel with me.
Camp Inc. is a place where I feel a part of something bigger. For the same reason I’m excited to live in Israel for another year, I’m also sad because I feel a similar communal connection at camp. Here, just like in Israel, I feel less need to hide who I am. I think this is something that goes equally for both staff and campers alike. Camp is a place to do more than invent, but to also invest in who we are; to not hold back who we want to be. I hear it in my own words every time I pitch Camp Inc. at a synagogue, youth group or dinner table – we’re not the same as every other overnight camp, we’re different and we let everyone here be different because that’s where innovation starts.