For as long as I can remember, portions of my summers have been spent out at the church camp my grandparents met at and my mom grew up going to. I hold countless precious memories from summers I’ve spent there with friends and family and I can’t imagine what my life would be like without those moments. This summer was my third year being a camp counselor and––now that I’m in college––my first year being there exclusively as staff. I spent four weeks at camp this summer and I loved that for the first time, I got to spend every moment serving the campers. I believe that no matter what I am always learning and growing, but I think being a camp counselor has stretched me the most. I’ve been wanting to write about being a camp counselor and what it has taught me. Here’s what I know:
- Being a camp counselor has taught me that my time isn’t mine. Because I’ve grown up going to camp, I have a lot of friends who also go every year and sometimes I fall into only spending time with them. It’s so easy to be selfish, especially when you only have a week with people. But that’s not the reason why I keep going back to camp. That’s not why I spend a week sweating through t-shirts and getting eaten by mosquitoes. That’s not why God doesn’t let me turn down a director when I’m asked to join their staff. I’m not at camp for myself and I’m not at camp to be comfortable. I’m there for the kids––to point them to God and love them deeply. The way I see it, my time isn’t mine, is their’s and I need to be there for them whenever they need me, including the times when I think they don’t. What I want has to leave the picture entirely in order for me to be a camp counselor and in order for me to follow Jesus better. Ultimately, my time is God’s––both on the camp grounds and off––and being a camp counselor has taught me to let go of what’s selfish and look to what’s holy.
2. Being a camp counselor has taught me empathy. Understanding where people are coming from in their flaws and well as in their kindness comes mindlessly for me and I’ve often wondered how I got to be so empathetic. Tracing it back leads to my days counseling at camp. There’s something safe about camp and it opens people up and makes them vulnerable. The amount of times I’ve seen hearts hung on sleeves with trembling but without fear are countless. I’ve heard stories of brokenness and seen sobs that mend and my role as a camp counselor in those moments has taught me that everyone has soft spots and everyone has places that hurt. And it’s caused me to understand the words that sting, the conversations that are awkward, the jokes that get annoying, the excitement that’s overkill, and so much more. I’ve been given the empathy to understand that everyone is worth loving and God reminds me repeatedly, calling me out when I bury empathy in hatred and jealousy and pretend like I don’t make excuses too.
3. Being a camp counselor has taught me about my impact. I honestly want to saw my arm off when I think about kids looking up to me. I know I’m never going to live up to their expectations and I’m never going to be the example I want them to have, but it’s an inevitable reality that campers will idolize you. They’ll want to be you and they’ll want to be your best friend. I remember thinking this about my counselors and I know every camper does it and I’ve learned to be a better person because of it. I don’t think there’s anything to teach you to walk like Jesus better than knowing that seven twelve year olds are looking at you to call the next shots. While my faith is ultimately between me and God, there’s another strong influence found in christian examples and mentors. You can’t control who sees you, but you can control how you live. Being a camp counselor has taught me that because of God, my life has greater purpose and meaning than I’ll ever know.
Being a camp counselor may not be for everyone and no one has had or is going to have the exact same experiences that I’ve had. However, if you ever get the opportunity, being a camp counselor might just be the best thing you’ve ever said yes to. Either way, God knows what’s up and everyday I’m learning to trust him better.
xo | Megan