Camp is a special place. There is a reason thousands of children and teenagers flock to hundreds of camps every summer. Although many will reap the benefits of camp, there is a lot more that goes on behind the scenes. One summer, I was blessed with the opportunity to work as a camp counselor. Working on camp staff is hard, but in the end the blessings are innumerable. I never could have predicted the difference that camp would make in me, but that's one of the things about camp. Camp gives us the time away from the pressures that we face everyday so that we can focus on the things that really matter. My life at camp taught me so much that applies to 'real life' that I still implement in my life.
1. Everyone has a story.
Every single person that you meet is struggling with things that you don't know about. We all have problems that are manifested in a variety of ways. There is one camper in particular I think of and pray for to this day. The thing about this girl is that beneath that frustrating external attitude that drove me insane was a child who had been through things that I never could have imagined. I don't know the story of everyone that I meet, and you won't either. But they have a story. The biggest takeaway that camp taught me is to remember this truth. It is so much easier to love difficult people when you understand that there is probably something there. If they haven't received the forgiveness and new life that Christ offers, they will never be able to overcome that either. This is why we are here! We are the beacons of light, the messengers to bring hope to the lost, hurting people that we see every day.
2. You really aren't as tired as you think.
Being tired is part of life at camp. A good staff member will put everything they have into making camp amazing for the kids. We "leave it all on the field." So many camp conversations are exclusively about how tired we all are and how much we long for sleep. Every single morning, most of the prayer requests shared during staff devotions would be for 'energy.' One morning, one of my fellow staff members pointed this out. "We always pray for energy," he said, "but in reality, we all already have enough energy." He pointed out the fact that we all had enough energy to get out of bed that morning and we were all there. "We need to thank God for the energy that He has already given us," he said. His comment changed my way of thinking in more ways than one. We constantly ask God for more and more things, but we forget that He has already given us everything that we need. How do we use the energy that God gives us? Do we apply ourselves and use it to do our absolute best for Him, or do we insist that we don't have enough and need more.
3. You are doing more than you think.
The worst feeling I had as a counselor was when I felt like I was not impacting my campers at all. One particular week I felt like no matter what I did, I couldn't form a connection with my campers. There was always something better for them to do than hang out with the counselor. I had so many flashbacks of my Junior High life. I was the awkward outcast, and I felt like that was me all over again. I was so sure I had failed. I was overwhelmed with the feeling that they just thought I was so lame, and I was a failure. The truth is, God was using me more than I could have known, and God never fails! There are so many times in life that we feel like failures, but God loves to take our broken pieces and use them to do something amazing. Don't underestimate what God can do with those who are open to being used by Him.
I am so thankful for my time at camp. I have so many fond memories to hold on to, and so many people I will never forget. It is difficult to fully express all that camp can be, you just have to go! Whether or not you ever work at a camp, or even attend a camp, these truths remain as timeless as camp itself. You will meet people with a story, and whether you ever know the full extent of it or not, you may be the only person to care and invest in their life. There will be times that you are tired and feel inadequate, but God has supplied all of your needs! You may not see the outcome of every person you've impacted in this life, but heaven holds a lot of stories.