Adam's Summer Updates


One of the most important aspects of any summer at camp is the great opportunities that camp offers all of us to take what we refer to as “safe risks.”  For many boys, merely making the decision to come to camp in the first place is a risk.  For others, giving waterskiing a try for the first time is a risk, orr building a fire for the first time, or trying a new food, or making a new friend.  As we adults understand, very little REAL growth ever came without taking some sort of risk.  This idea is one of the key facets of our Good Time Charlies (GTCs….or talent shows).  And we had our first one of the summer on Saturday night.  Now to be clear, depending on the act, the word “talent” can take on multiple meanings! Certainly there were the legitimate expressions of talent including a wonderful singer, a terrific dancer, and our music program’s band. Then again, there were the looser definitions of “talent” such as the stand-up comedy of one of our village directors. There was the accomplished kazooist (is that a word????) who led the camp in a rousing and emotional rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. And we were treated to a performance by a cabin group that enacted what it was like to get the “meat sweats” and be rescued by the folks from Arbys….WE HAVE THE MEATS!…and other such goofiness!

Ultimately it doesn’t matter which kind of talent is on display, because the GTC is about kids feeling comfortable enough in a place, and comfortable enough with their camp family, to stand up in front of all of them and take a risk. Most of us, at some point in our lives, are forced to stand up in front of a large group of people and do something. It goes without saying that this can be really intimidating. Yet here at camp, kids find a way to embrace some of the anxiety, get up on stage, and perform. This leads to some of my favorite moments of the GTCs, when kids get up on that stage and really struggle. That’s right, I LOVE IT when kids get up onto that stage and really have a hard time with their acts. No doubt, at this point you are thinking to yourself, “Come on Adam, how can you love it when a kid gets onto a stage and struggles? What is wrong with you?? Is it too late to pull my son out of camp?” Let me explain……

I love it when they struggle because it is during these moments that the camp family gets a chance to really show our compassion. When that boy struggles, you can feel it in the whole room. You can feel the room wishing for him to make it through that performance or musical piece. There is an almost palpable feeling of strength and support that is directed towards the boy as we all will him to succeed.

Furthermore, real learning happens when we fail.  This was the totally well-timed message of our Council Fire this past Sunday, written by one of our Axeman counselors and performed by an assortment of campers and staff.  We were treated to a number of skits illustrating the value and importance of failure. He summed it up by saying, “Failure is not the opposite of success.  It’s the first step to success.”

Back to the GTC…the culmination of the evening is a raucous singing of antiquated songs. You read that right.  It is when we break out the camp songbooks and spend a half hour or so just singing. To be clear, the next time your son is rolling his eyes as he is asked to sing along at school, or anywhere else, all you need to do is break into The Itsy Bitsy Spider and he will burst into song and dance!  It is truly an amazing thing. We sing some of the most hokey songs ever written… John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, The Happy Wanderer, a song about making moonshine, even a mournful ballad about a woman losing her Logger Lover (which happens to be their favorite!).  It’s during the Itsy Bitsy Spider song that I prove to them that being uncool… super cool.  (Because a 51 year old man enthusiastically acting out the gestures to the Itsy Bitsy Spider is far from cool in the real world, but at camp….there is nothing cooler.  At least I have convinced myself that the huge grins, finger pointing, and laughter from the boys as I do that song is admiration….isn’t it?) They love to sing those songs. They sing them passionately, enthusiastically, and incredibly loudly. I think that if I let them, the singing part would go on for hours. They love it! Imagine that. Here we have a group of 200 boys, most of whom are at an age when being cool is at the very top of the list of what matters, and we are singing the Itsy Bitsy Spider! Now, I admit to being a tiny bit out of touch with some of the things that are considered cool to a thirteen year old, but I am betting that the Itsy Bitsy Spider is fairly far down on the list. But, here at camp, it totally works. It is the pinnacle of cool. It is cool because we all do it together. We don’t look over our shoulders to see if anyone is staring at us as we sing these juvenile songs. We don’t have to because we KNOW we ALL have been dying to sing these songs together since the last time we were all together. And sing them we did.

All is well in the North Woods…