Camp Kesem Counselor For The Last Time
I have written many blog posts in the past, but this one is by far the most meaningful to me.
This past week, I was a camp counselor for Camp Kesem. It was my third camp in as many summers, and I have to say it was the best of all of them. Not because it was the last, but because of the campers, the counselors, and everything else. It was a truly magical week that I feel so lucky to have been a part of.
Camp Kesem has been such a huge part of my college career, and life in general, that it hurts to say goodbye (not forever, but for the most part). If you know me well, I’ve always been more introverted and cautious to approach things. Sometimes now, it feels weird to be called Stanley, rather than my camp name. Kesem gave me the chance to be a kid again, to sing silly songs, and just have fun. It pulled me out of my shell when I needed it most and has taught me so much about myself.
The people I’ve met through the organization will be lifelong friends and are a second family to me. Never have I met a group so selfless and caring. Kesem has taught me to be the best person I can be. Many friends have asked me about my experiences at camp, but I don’t think my words could ever express and recreate the magic of camp.
It didn’t really hit me at the post-camp potluck with the camper families, or at counselor debriefing either, but as I sit here trying to write out my feelings, the eyes are watery and the tears start to come. I know there will still be some opportunities to stay involved as a camp advisor and attend reunions, but the experience of being a camp counselor won’t come around again.
By chance, my birthday has fallen during camp week the past three summers and the surprise celebrations have never disappointed. This year, campers sang Happy Birthday to me at all three meals during the day, and counselors sang Happy Birthday to me three more times at two nightly staff meetings. Plus, I was cheered to skip around the room all six times. Throughout the day, I literally got hundreds of Happy Birthdays. Campers, I’m sure from their own thinking, made me a birthday hat and wrote me cards. Few times have I ever felt so loved in my life.
Seeing and interacting with the campers at camp is something I will cherish forever. As a member of the admin team (running around providing support) this camp, all the hard work and lack of sleep could easily get me down. There are definitely trying times at camp, but so many more uplifting ones that stand above them. Sitting in on the final cabin chat of camp brought back why I’ve committed so much time and effort to Camp Kesem.
One camper, in response to “What does Kesem mean to you?” answered:
“At home, I don’t have many friends. It is always me calling them. They are always too busy to call me. At camp, I have many friends. They all love me and there is so much compassion. I got to face my fears, like walking in the dark and going on the zipline. Camp Kesem has been so fun and I already can’t wait to come back next year.”
I didn’t realize it then, but I see it now. What that camper said is what Kesem has given me as well. Some of my very best friends in college and I’m sure also in life, I met through Kesem. I’ve faced my fears of public speaking and being silly, and doubts of self-confidence. If you asked me before, I could never quite pinpoint a reason why I kept coming back to this student-run non-profit. I now know that’s because everything about Kesem kept me coming back. Just like that camper, I couldn’t wait to come back each year. On that last night of camp, what he said brought things full circle for me.
In parting, I will miss the people the most. To my fellow counselors, campers, and professional staff, you have all made a positive impact on my life and I hope I’ve been able to do the same in return. You are all amazing people and I will never forget the memories we made and shared at camp. Take care and continue being the best that you can be.
A last goodbye:
Dear Camp Kesem,
You have been a best friend, a teacher, and an inspiration to me. The three weeks of camp that I have been privileged to attend were some of the best in my life. You will be so, so missed.