Camp Unirondack Transforms :| Into :)
If there is one thing that seven years at Camp Unirondack has taught me, it is that camp is not just for kids. I know, I know, camp director rhetoric if you’ve ever heard it right? But let me tell you why it’s true. It stems from a struggle that I think many people share. If there is one thing almost all people on this planet have one thing in common it is that feeling of doubt inside. Am I going to pass this test? Will I graduate? Am I good enough? I have yet to meet someone who hasn’t felt it. Part of that feeling is an ever-present wonder about what others think of us. Some night in our lives we will lay in bed and ponder what other think of us. It doesn’t make us weak, it makes us human.
Interestingly, I discovered this reality through finding its solution. Before I ever knew it was such a universal experience I started working for a place which I have since found to be a sanctuary for those who need to answer that lingering question — are there people out there who care about me? At Unirondack, the answer was yes. I started in 2009 and in that time I have had many conversations with people who go to camps about the reasons they go back year after year. The reality is, camps create a place where the self-doubt is left behind. There simply isn’t room for it.
I’ve helped women in their 50s and 60s experience rock climbing for the first time in their lives. I’ve seen a nine year-old boy teach a college student the lesson of patience. I’ve seen young adults leave camp in tears on their third day. How does it happen? It’s the power of experiencing the creation of an intentional community and actively engaging in it. I think what makes a Unitarian Universalist congregation inspiring is when congregants come together to create. At camp, that creation is ongoing and ever-present.
The result of this experience is equal for both campers and staff – and how could it not be? Working at a camp requires a surprising amount of selflessness. Finding a group of people willing to work 16-hour days to create something generates two things. First, an incredible amount of pride in the construction of such an experience. Second, a community with universal appreciation of its creation. The dog-eat-dog world we live in practically force feeds competition and a need to promote the self over others. At camps, it’s for the good of all. Bottom line — there is no better place to learn about the self than a place created to care for others.
Find someone you care about and get them involved in a camp. I strongly believe in their ability to heal a part of the human condition that is sadly far too commonplace. There are many excellent camps and conference centers throughout the country, find one to call home. Visit the Unitarian Universalist Alliance of Camps & Conference Centers (UUACCC) at www.uuaccc.org for more info.
Kristofer Fiore is the camp director at Camp Unirondack in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. Unirondack is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Alliance of Camps and Conference Centers, a group whose aim is to promote the success and well-being of Unitarian Universalist centers across the county.