As we rounded the turn for session 1, campers spent Wednesday afternoon scattering Watermelon seeds throughout the fertile riverbank and painting the famous carving trees (and their counselors) with the rich color of watermelon red. Another hike to the carving trees in the books, a few more names remained permanently etched in bark, and several more footprints were left buried in mud as we all made our way back down camp road.

Wednesday of camp for a one-week session is always significant in a peculiar way. Many of the younger campers are just overcoming the usual humps of early camp jitters. Many of the older campers are prepping to aptly squeeze every drop of camp magic out of the few remaining days. And many of the counselors are, simultaneously, crossing their fingers for maybe just one more hour of sleep while also cherishing all those things about camp that often justify the demands of assuming responsibility for a group of children for a week that you’re just now meeting for the first time.

I’ve got Willow Glen this week, which normally would mean girls’ camp, but this session entails twelve of the most energetic five, six, and seven year-old boys I know. We’ve shared quite a few emotions collectively as a cabin: confusion, elation, irritation, longing contentment, to name a few. But here’s the kicker: now’s about the time we queue those brief moments of significance coming from the emotions left from so many ups and downs, one of those things that does add value to the tedium.

A couple things start standing out. Echoes of the word “mine” start being clouded with the occasional “you can play with it too.” A camper, who had found himself homesick only a few hours before, quietly embraces another of the plagued kids and tells him “it’s all going to be okay.” What might be the first flashes of empathy occur when you hear the whole cabin chant the name of the newly crowned “Camper of the Day” or of our cabin’s own Karate Kid after his crowd-pleasing performance at the talent show.

And amidst all the emotions of midweek, these glimpses of meaning and worth and value subtly, even for an instant, overshadow all those other less-than-fun duties that come with the job. We really do get to watch some serious growth go on here.

So, thanks for letting us hang with your kids this week. Here’s to thinking, with a fair amount of confidence, they come back with a few cherished memories, a better handle on a broom, no clean clothes (I can pretty much guarantee that one), and a little more empathy for those around them than when they got here.

-Matt Gillham, Counselor in Willow Glen

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