The definition of “Joy” in the dictionary is ‘a feeling of great pleasure and happiness’. Well, there’s no denying that definition when it comes to the Joy that Camp can bring. However, there are so many aspects to joy during a camp season and the differences in the way that it is felt.
In my time, I have experienced camp through all aspects; a child (camper), a staff member, a director, and also as a parent. I’ve seen every angle of camp and I can tell you that they are all joyful, just maybe in a different way.
As a kid, attending horseback lessons at Camp Doublecreek was the absolute highlight of my week. I participated in quite a few different sports and activities, however, Doublecreek horseback riding was always a constant and I never had a time where I told my mom, “I don’t want to go.” I specifically remember being too “sick” to go to school, however, when it came time for horseback riding that afternoon, I was magically all better and ready to go. The joy that Doublecreek brought me during my childhood is a core memory that shaped the next stage of my life.
As I headed off to college, I never let go of Doublecreek. Carter had offered me a position as a caretaker of the horses and Jan had also given me a job teaching riding lessons. Even though I was going to school at Texas State in San Marcos, I would drive back to Round Rock 2-3 times a week just to teach riding lessons and continue feeling that joy. (I am not sure I would make that same choice now, given the gas prices… but it was a different time) I also spent every summer as a staff member because not only did my co-workers (“Summer friends” as we called each other) bring me joy, but watching the campers grow each summer was so joyful. As campers arrived on their first day back and ran to give me a hug, I was hooked! Experiencing the joy and love from a kid is like nothing else!
I stuck around Doublecreek through every life change and when Dan offered me a full time position, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. It definitely came with “growing pains” as I learned a lot about the inner workings of the office, paperwork, interviewing staff, conferences, etc., but (most) every part was still joyful! As I attended conferences and seminars and became a camp professional, (Yes! It’s a real thing!) I learned about all the benefits of camp for our campers and how we could best facilitate their growth and confidence through, you guessed it, JOY!
Now I’m a parent to 2 awesome kids of my own (ages 10 and almost 7). When they were old enough to attend camp, they didn’t get a choice because, well, I work full time in the summer. I wasn’t sure what their experience would be because it has to be different when your mom works there. Will they be treated differently? Will they hate it because I’m there? Will they actually participate or just want to hang on my side? Well, it was all and none of that at the same time. My kids had moments of fear and anxiousness and even though they got to come talk to their mom about it, I wasn’t the one to help them through it. They leaned on their counselors, bonded with staff and C.I.T.s that they talk about ALL YEAR LONG, and tried new things because they wanted to, not because mom made them. Now, I do get to watch my kids do some of these things during camp but most of the time I don’t see my kids during the day and I find so much joy when (like all other parents) I scroll through the hundreds of camp pictures to find those few pictures of my kids with their smiles as big as Texas, or wrapped tightly in a hug with a friend or counselor. So my joy as a parent is seeing their joy, but there’s also joy for me watching some of the staff members, who were my campers, now help my kids experience the joy of camp the way that I hope I instilled joy in them as their counselor. Joy is a never ending circle so as you head into this holiday season, spread the joy to everyone around you! You never know how that joy will come back around to you! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
- Rachel Chuey