As I stood watching the senior campers hugging each other goodbye last Thursday I couldn’t help but be aware of the unique energy in the air – made all the more evident as I felt its absence half an hour later when the camp was empty once more. A deserted campsite with the lingering spirit of camp clutching to the buildings and the breeze I began to reminisce. Having been involved with the camp for almost 15 years, first as a camper, then a leader and now as an employee, my life has become so deeply immersed in camp that it can be hard to step back and look at it anew. So when I do, I can’t help but be blown away. To put a finger on a single reason as to why camps are so wonderful is like trying to define why a dazzling sunset is the way it is- there are reasons and explanations for it being so but the experience of actually witnessing is a personal and beautiful experience. One could say it is the enthusiasm that permeates the dining room with the singing at meal times; another could say it is the deep friendships that are formed in the short space of four days. Many say that it is because camp is a place where no matter who you are or what your story is out in ‘the real world’ on camp you are an equal deserving of love and respect. At camp we have too many wonderful young leaders wanting to volunteer –a ‘problem’
that many organizations would love to have. These young leaders have mostly come through as a young camper now with a desire to give back and to become one of those role models they so looked up to as a shy 9 year old. This goes to show that it is not just me that feels this powerful spirit, but nearly everyone that comes along. So why is camp special? Is it the energy and time that the leaders put in to organizing such creative activities? Is it the six month wait that each camper endures between camps that builds up an anticipation so potent that once at camp just explodes into excited energy to create an atmosphere of pure joy? I could go on hypothesizing, or I could just look deep in my heart and try to imagine what my life would have been like without the presence of camp.
There would have been a lot less joy, I would have had a lot less confidence but most profoundly I would not have been a part of a community that transforms people’s lives. A community that, in the spirit of Don Bosco, teaches young people to be happy for life- that no matter what happens, there is joy in knowing that one can make a difference just by giving someone the time of day for a chat, a laugh, or a game of table tennis! Through camp I have learnt that if I focus on making myself happy then the only person happy will be me- but if I turn my focus outwards into making others happy then that happiness spreads, and as a reward I am buoyed by the happiness of hundreds, rather than just one. Don Bosco’s spirit and legacy is living on and strong at a little camp in Safety Beach. An oratory, a refuge, a home away from home, I could write for days about why camp is special but in truth- this phenomenon simply must be caught- it can’t be taught! I just thank God a thousand times over that I was blessed with ‘catching’ it all those years ago.