Dear Chippewa Parent,
Every year around this time I try to describe the feeling that washes over us after the buses leave, but it’s just so hard to explain… It really is. “Hard” may actually be the best word to describe it. Of course there is that deep breath of relief as the buses roll out of camp, but then comes that familiar and insensitive curtain of silence that smashes down on our camp stage like a ton of bricks. The end always shows up with a cruel abruptness, and it leaves so much of our hard work and preparation in the dust. It always makes me ask myself what I forgot to remember. Did I say all off the things that I wanted to say? Did I fulfill all of the promises that I made? Did I thank all of the people that I wanted to thank? The end of the summer is such a cram, and we scramble to get everything in so that no experience is left behind. I literally stood there at the end of our closing key log ceremony on Wednesday trying to get everything out before it was too late. To the dismay of most of my audience, I essentially tried to pour out a “greatest hits” of every positive message that we had attempted to ingrain in our campers this summer. I felt a desperate need to freeze time and keep them in their seats until I was absolutely certain that everything was said (and repeated). Of course everything was not said, but I am confident that everything was heard…
An environment like that of a summer camp takes years to build, but every season requires an exorbitant amount of work and participation to set things in motion. That work doesn’t stop until our very last camper is safely in the arms of her parents at the end of the summer. It’s kind of like a violin or a cello. They’re beautiful instruments, but before they can perform properly they have to be tuned and prepared. The strings have to be tightened, resin must be applied to the bow, and then the musician needs to meticulously practice and prepare the music. Multiply that by an entire orchestra of instruments, and you’ll uncover the magic that is camp.
This is certainly not a rant about the effort that goes into operating a camp. It is more so an explanation for why the feelings that follow an incredible camp season (like this one was) can be complicated. Every single member of the community is part of this orchestra, and each maintains her own unique value in what Chippewa hopes to produce during the summer. If she left camp feeling the way that we were hoping she would, then your daughter will have discovered her very own special place at camp, and this will have felt to her like a second home. She may feel a little sad about the end. Children have trouble anticipating the future, so where tomorrow seems far away at times, next summer feels like never again. Families of returning campers can vouch for that this does subside, but for a little while she really may display some “camp sickness.” Many will miss this experience and reference it all year long, and they’ll count down the days until 2019. This is the best compliment any camp can receive.
A Clearer Message
This summer has been a very powerful one in terms of the intentionality in our messaging. Your daughter enjoyed a number of campfires these past weeks and months, during which she was showered with positive teachings about morality, and she was reminded about what it means to be a good person. We talked a lot about the simplicity of doing the “right things” in life. She heard anecdotes about making good decisions, and we doused her in stories reflecting kindness and compassion. This summer she existed in an environment that was constantly encouraging her to welcome feelings of empowerment, and that she stand up as a catalyst for change when the time felt right. We discussed the importance of always lending a helping hand to those in need, and that kindness is our true north. That message will be taught and practiced for as long as we’re at the helm of this ship.
Her Purpose to Define
Lisa delivered a campfire this summer that addressed the subject of empowerment. It is our belief right now that this is one of the most important messages to be conveyed to our girls, and at camp we had so many opportunities to hit on that message. We tried very hard not to miss any of those opportunities. The book, Strong Is The New Pretty became a beautiful symbol around camp back in 2017, and it forecasted a decisive new vision for where we were going to be taking our campers. A simple (yet gorgeous) photo book had laid the groundwork for something that was both long overdue, yet incredibly timely. Our world right now is demanding for strong and rational leadership. At Chippewa we believe that every single one of our campers is destined for something great, but we also know that in order for them to get there they need to recognize what their great is. Eventually they are going discover how the world is destined to impact them, and how they’re destined to impact the world. We are just trying to help them to find their purpose before someone else attempts to define it for them. Our aim this summer was to empower our campers (and staff) with the recognition that they could literally bend history with their impact if they so desired. Even for just one single moment, they could standup for what was right, and actualize their inner fortitude to bravely overcome the hurdles that stood in their way. They could do that if they wanted to and if they remained steadfast in their efforts. We want to see our campers grow into exceptional and responsible adults who live by a moral compass that will forever keep them pointed in the right direction. That is our purpose. It’s why we are.
The Minor Fall, The Major Lift
Camp lessons exist in an undefined space whether we like that or not, and they are oftentimes challenging to tame. Some of these lessons are happy, and some of them sting a bit, but there is always something to gain from the experience. During that final gathering at the Center Fire Circle that I mentioned, I attempted to remind our campers of this complex phenomenon: bad can also be good. I explained that sometimes things work out, and sometimes they don’t, but that it’s important to find the “gain” within any experience. This will seem like such an odd contradiction based on all of my health and safety ramblings over the years, but if your daughter stubbed her toe or skinned her knee while she was here this summer, then she grew from that experience and will be stronger for it. If she didn’t get to be in a cabin with the girl that she wanted, and if she felt sad about that reality, then she inevitably grew emotionally from that experience, and she’ll be better for it. If she was not so nice to another child for some reason, or if a another child was at some point not so nice to her, then through the proper mediation, both children will have grown from that experience.
Camp is like a rich garden that’s always filled with different outcomes. During the summer campers are given their own set of tools, and the permission to harvest those outcomes at their own pace and discretion. The growing process is the journey, the picking process is the fulfillment, and the lesson is eaten and digested. It becomes part of them. I suppose that it’s ultimately paid forward to others down the road, but i’ll leave that portion of this metaphor to your imagination. The bottom line is that they can’t always nail the perfect outcome. Sometimes they are going to overwater and sometimes they will underwater. Sometimes they will harvest too soon, and other times they will wait too long. Sometimes she’ll hit it on the head and feel like she is on top of the world, and other times she will no doubt feel like the world is on top of her. I have said this before, but occasionally a camper is simply going to be sad and need some help to manage that moment. THIS is where we pride ourselves on truly being at our best as a camp community; when she’s in need, she’ll always be the center of someone’s universe here. A little girl’s arm may be short, but not so much her reach, and there is always a helping hand at Chippewa. Our staff provide campers with an experience, a challenge, and sometimes even a moment of controlled disappointment, but shortly thereafter comes a successful resolution, which then adds to her roadmap toward resilience. I’m certain that your daughter had moments here that left something to be desired. This would be the case anywhere, but she will have also enjoyed so many more positive experiences. We welcome the challenges and even encourage some controlled risk. There is so much more to gain here than there is to lose, but there is so much to be gained through those losses. Winning is winning and losing is winning.
She Saw Mars
If your second session or eight week camper hasn’t referenced her witnessing of the planet Mars at its absolute brightest this summer, then she simply hasn’t gotten to that part of her summer story! One of the best things about camp is that the sky above it is big, dark and filled with the most beautiful panoramas that you could ever hope to witness. It is easy to take this for granted (walking from point A to point B doesn’t always require a glance toward the sky), but the stars this summer unquestionably demanded our attention. You couldn’t help but notice their beauty, and the moon put on a few incredible shows of its own. Even as I write this, the sky is literally dancing outside to the tune of the Perseid meteor shower. The endless night sky offers magic in a glance. We believe that her journey is borderless, her potential is boundless, and her star is always within reach…she just has to grab it. At some point this summer she will have done just that.
As fellow parents, Lisa and I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for entrusting us with your babies. This is the part that humbles us the most. There is nothing more important in this world than our children, and your faith in us to care for yours provides us with a huge sense of pride and gratitude. We have always promised to treat every child at camp as though she were our own, and even when decisions get tough, we are quite confident that we remain steadfast on that promise. Having Audry and Viv has given us perspective and direction. If it’s not good enough for one of them, then it’s not good enough for someone else’s girl… plain and simple. Your trust in us is why we are able to exist as a camp. We will always protect that sacred privilege, and there will never come a day when the power of that reality loses its impact.
We wish you a safe, healthy and fulfilling finish to the summer, and we look forward to an incredible 2019!