Blog  Taking Camp Home: Reflections for the New Year

Taking Camp Home: Reflections for the New Year

by Greg Kellner, Senior Assistant Director, URJ Crane Lake Camp

It’s September 21st and it seems like just yesterday that I was giving hugs to campers and staff wishing everyone a L’hitraot, in the hopes of joining back together in next years summer months.

I had an incredible summer at Crane Lake… It was everything I hoped it would be and more. All the time people ask me… “How was your first summer at Crane Lake?” and I never know exactly what to answer because there are so many things that make me smile about the summer. There are a few moments that stand out to me that illustrate my experience and taught me lessons that I will carry with me as I begin the new year and reflect on the past year…

Risk: The Game of Total Camp Domination (click photo to view map)

Sweat the Small Stuff…
I strolled into arts & crafts one day to check out what was going on, to see a small group of Olim boys working fervidly on a sketch. A few days prior, I had seen them playing my favorite board game… Risk. The boys were now in the art room making their own Crane Lake version of the board game. Crane Lake Risk… The Game of Total Camp Domination! I was very excited about the idea and was eager to see a completed version. Not soon after, I was asked if I could help out with providing some maps of camp to improve the game board’s accuracy. So I gave them some Google images and the camp map. A few days later, the group came to me to show me a completed game board… complete with the lakefront, fields, Debby’s house and of course, Kamchatka! When I looked closer, I noticed that the names of the campers who created the game were on the board, and under it, my name as well. When I inquired as to why my name was on it, the group was insistent that my help was integral to the success of the project. It was a subtle reminder that it is the small things that make a difference… It’s taking the extra few minutes to say “yes, I’ll help you,” and people remember that. And the recognition made me feel more welcomed into a community and to feel welcome among a group of campers who only weeks earlier were skeptical about “the new guy.”

L’Dor V’dor… Pay it Forward
The second scene was on the last night of camp, during Firefly, a long standing tradition and ceremony where campers and staff line up by their number of years at camp and walk down quietly to the lakefront and launch a candle onto the lake, while making a wish. I was waiting in line, proud to be standing with the “1 Yearers,” many of the youngest campers and newest staff. As we approached the lake, a camper told me his candle wouldn’t light… After an attempt to help him, the candle was without a wick, and so I did what anyone would do, gave the child my candle. All of the unlit candles were at the top of camp and we were already at the lake, so I resigned myself to not being able to participate in something I had been looking forward to since I first had heard about it.

As we were about to speak to camp, Debby asked me my thoughts about my first Firefly, so I told her what just took place but that I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to take part. A long-time staff member (One of the “10+ yearers”) overheard and pressed that I should get a candle, and not wanting to make a big deal of it I said she didn’t need to worry about me and that we should move on with the evening ceremonies. Sure enough, a few minutes later, she handed me a lit candle. I was moved by the gesture and I walked to the lake to launch my candle and made my wish. The whole experience was a poignant coda to a wonderful summer. I was able to help complete the summer experience of one of our youngest campers and a person who was at CLC a generation before me helped me complete my summer.

The Beginning of Firefly 2012

Hineini…Live in the Present
Tweeting, Facebooking, Checking-in, Instagramming… These are all things that consume daily life whether at home, at work, or in school. A few days after camp ended, Debby and I were sitting in her house with a group of people, taking a much needed breather, and I watched as the conversations occasionally paused for people to check their phones, OR even better, to talk about what was going on in the Foursquare world. I realized at that moment, what I had always known… camp is magical because it is ALL about living in the present. Camp is free from the distractions offered by these online time consumers. Camp is a tangible social network that exists at meals, services, and in the pool. Each camper has 15 friends or more in the form of bunkmates, that are always present and not in a newsfeed. Instagrams hardly last an instant… They come in the form of lifelong memories of late nights on a friend’s bunk bed, or the pride of winning Fight Song (Well done, N’tzanim Boys). Check-ins go on every hour where campers learn new skills and build relationships on the Lake Field, the Main Lawn, at Art and Tweets exist as Hakshivu’s like “Marble Marble Marble” or in the thoughtfulness of a “Shabbat-o-gram.”

I admit, I am an active user of all of these online time consumers, but going into 5773 my hope is that I will never let the idea of “reporting” or “recording” the moment overshadow the moment itself. I have already reduced my number of status updates and curbed my constant check-ins so that I am not missing out on the experience itself. I see a wonderful social network every day during the summer and I’d like to bring that sense of experiencing the present with me into the new year.

I wish for all of our camp community a meaningful time of reflection as we begin the new year and that the experiences and lessons of summer will carry into the year. Shana Tova, a meaningful fast, and lots of blessings for a great year!