This past week I had the pleasure of attending the very, very cold Dunkirk Camp and Conference Center. For the southern girl I am, every time I said it was cold they all laughed at me and said, “You should be back in December.” The campers also spent about 15 minutes asking me to say different words so that they could hear my accent, which is not very strong, compared to others. Despite the cold weather I must say there is something truly special about this camp. The campers feel completely safe to share with each other and with counselors things that they may not be ready to share in the real world.
While at camp I was able to participate in an emotional activity presented by another counselor. Posted around the room were signs labeled; “sexual orientation”, “race”, “physical appearance”, “family”, “friendships/relationships”, “religion”, “economic status”, and “personal experiences”. The counselor asked us several questions such as, “ What attribute has given you the most joy?” or “What attribute is the least known by other people?” To answer these questions we had to walk in silence to the sign that we felt best answered the question and then take a moment to look around the room at how others answered.
During the debriefing of this activity I realized how special Dunkirk is to these campers. One camper (who gave me permission to share this experience in my blog), after the exercise, told us this was the right time to come out to the group. The camper said “I cannot leave Dunkirk in a good consciousness without sharing this with my family.” This was not the first or last time the word family was used while at camp, the worship service that night was about sharing our insecurities with the whole camp. Many campers were brave and shared insecurities that broke my heart to listen to how they see themselves or how they believe others see them. After sharing we were then asked to write the insecurity on our foot and someone would come wash away the writing.
The title of this blog is from Song of Purple Summer which is the closing song of the broadway musical Spring Awakening. I heard the song in the airport while traveling to my next camp and I originally thought of it because of the beautiful purple sunset I saw while at Dunkirk, but when I looked up the meaning behind the lyrics in the show I thought it was a perfect fit for the Dunkirk experience. The lyricist writes, “Purple summer represents the time of maturation, a time when the fields will yield crops, and the horses bear foals again. It is the time when the painful spring of adolescence reaches the maturity of summer.” I think that Dunkirk really helps its campers get through the tough years of adolescence and creates a safe place for them to call home, where family is always waiting for them year after year. I hope that I can one day go back again to help create this safe place for other campers.
Now I am headed to Oklahoma for camp and I am ready for warmer weather!
Till next time y’all!