A Land Flowing with Milo’s Sweet Tea and Zaxby’s

I don’t know where Milo’s Sweet Tea has been all my life, but let me tell you, it’s a delight when paired with homemade lasagna  after arriving at camp after a late night flight into Montgomery.

Week 2 of my summer was at Camp Christian in Gordon, Georgia. Not only was it my first time flying into Atlanta, but my first time experiencing the legendary Atlanta traffic. I will say, as someone who mostly flies out of O’Hare, I prefer Atlanta more. Not by much, but slightly more. I also got to have Zaxby’s and Zax sauce, and I raved so much about Zax sauce to my campers, it became a running joke, especially during one skit where campers imitate counselors.

Camp traditions are a large part of Camp Christian: serenades and senior candles, cabin clean up shenanigans, affirmation posters, senior banquet, and much more. Many counselors were former campers themselves, which is not uncommon for camps, of course, and it was clear how dear the traditions were to campers and counselors alike.

It was also exciting to meet Rev. David  Kenley, a DPF intern from 1979. For those who didn’t know, early DPF interns would take Greyhound buses from camp to camp, rather than flying.

One of my best discussions during my week at Camp Christian occurred during small group. One of the curriculum days focuses on speaking out, and I brought up a question to my small group. Many of the campers I’ve met this summer have seen the Netflix show “13 Reasons Why.” The discussion grew to discussing pop artist Selena Gomez, who is a producer of the show. One question that I posed to my small group is, what role do celebrities have in using their platform to address social issues? This lead to a wide variety of comments, ranging from discussing musicians writing and singing songs with political messages from celebrities who post messages and images on their social media accounts.

During Camp Christian’s senior night, each camper and counselor receives a superlative. Counselors brainstorm superlatives, or “Dixie Cup Awards,” for their small group members, and seniors present superlatives to counselors. My superlative was “Passion for Perspective,” with the following caption: “To the person who is always willing to listen to everyone, you strive to ensure every voice is valued and heard and you inspire others to do so in return.”  One of the seniors from my small group gave me my superlative, and when I returned to my seat, David commented that it sounded like I was doing the right thing that week.

Week 3 was spent in Wetupka, Alabama at Camp Chandler. Camp Chandler’s theme was “Choose Justice.” I once again was able to offer suggestions on how to edit the privilege walk. Co-directors Robin and Beth both had a great idea for the walk: each camper was given a card with the narrative of a character, similar to cards given at the Holocaust Museum in DC or Titantic exhibits at museums. Each camper learns a bit about that person’s narrative, and then completes the walk as that person. These cards were used for several activities throughout the week, so campers grew attached to their person and their unique narrative.

One of the days focused on justice in terms of money, and another day focused on food justice. I was able to lead an activity with the whole camp that incorperated both topics, campers’ cards and their results of the privilege walk. I created giant flyers for four different stores: a convenience store, a chain grocery store, a co-op, and a bakery. I asked campers to buy food for five days for the person on their card and their person’s family situation. In addition, there would be a birthday in the week, so they had to buy something to celebrate a birthday. Campers toward the front half of the privilege walk had a higher budget and could shop at any of the four stores, but campers toward the back had a lower budget, and were only allowed to shop at the grocery store and convenience store. Campers at the very, very front and very, very back had extremely high and low budgets, respectively.

Campers toward the front of the line did not worry about budgets and were able to buy cakes at the bakery, but campers toward the back of the line were only able to shop at the convenience store and buy ramen and a pop for the birthday celebration (by the way, campers commented that they knew I was from Illinois because I said pop instead of Coke). During the debrief, we talked about food access and food deserts. A great example that campers brought up was the prevelance of Dollar Generals in small, rural towns, and how fresh food access is hard in more rural areas. I also discussed a non-profit back in Peoria, IL, Gifts in the Moment, or Gitm. My freshmen seminar volunteered with Gitm and their “Uber for food” program, so I explained how Gitm is striving to make fresh food available to wider varieties of people. More about their programs can be found here: https://www.gitmfoundation.org/goodfoodrecovery

One of the biggest joys that I’ve experienced this summer is seeing how campers with different opinions can come together in a discussion and have a discussion about difficult and controversial topics. At Camp Chandler, one of my favorite moments was having a camper request an interest group about feminism and  seeing that camper and other campers speak passionately about being feminists. There were dissenting opinions, but the campers were still accepting and thoughtful about each person while still having moments of disagreement. The amount of maturity and poise that those campers showed warmed my heart, cliche as that sounds.

On the last day of small group, myself and each small group leader wrote campers’ names on a small mirror, and added three or four words on each mirror that describe that person. We then presented the mirrors to each camper, and campers affirmed each other and added words to their mirrors. That way, when campers need to remind themselves of their worth and importance, all they have to do is look in their mirror and remember all of the unique gifts that they bring to everyone. It was a really emotional group, and seeing campers light up as their peers affirmed them was heartwarming. In addition, as a small group leader,  I was invited to give a speech about the two seniors in my group. No doubt was I nervous – what could I say about two campers that I’ve known for five days, campers that have been coming to this camp for a decade or more. Yet I somehow found the words, and both campers were teary eyed after my speech, just after I was teary eyed after theirs.

Before campers left on Friday, I was surprised with an affirmation card of my own. There were several wonderful comments, but one spoke volumes to me. One camper wrote on my affirmation card, “You have the useful skill of talking TO people and not AT them, which is a skill that is becoming more rare by the day. The world could use more people like you.” This camper has not always agreed with what I’ve presented in my interest groups, but this camper consistantly signed up for my interest group and was active in discussion. I know not every camper will agree with the messages that I present, but what I’m hoping is that I can continue to serve as a role model by acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly.

Sarah

The lake at Camp Christian

At Camp Chandler, campers and counselors added their thumbprints to a different board each day that coordinated with the theme. Here is the final product.

The lake at Camp Chandler

 

 

PS Today is the last day of camp at Kum Ba Ya in Kentucky, but I’m going to enjoy myself this last day, because we didn’t have the power for a solid fifteen hours yesterday and the day before, so I’m going to just hang out in the lodge here and eat my Pop Tarts. Thanks for understanding, and stay tuned.

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