Last week I was invited to speak to the CYO Camp Christopher Day Camp staff to prepare them for their 2013 season. I spent ten summers at Camp Christopher as a counselor, bus driver and camp director, and I was honored to be invited back.
I am a HUGE supporter of summer camps. Every kid should spend time in the wilderness making friends and getting muddy. Summer camp teaches life lessons in teamwork, leadership, spirituality, environmentalism, fitness, and so much more. I loved the swimming, canoeing, horseback riding, hiking, crafts, games, singing songs….the list is endless.
One of the best parts of Camp Christopher for me was the story telling. Every camp has its own stories and legends, and Camp Christopher was no different. Old Man’s Cabin, Mummy’s Cave, Frankenstein’s Chair, and the Man Walking Backwards: these were all stories that we loved to tell to campers, and it was fun to see over the years how the stories would change, much like the oral tradition of centuries ago.
The stories we told all featured interesting characters—some heroes, some villains—who came to life for our campers as they had for campers from previous generations.
Last week I reminded the Day Camp staff of something I like to remind our teachers. That is, you will be a character in the life story of each child with whom you interact. Whether you are a hero or a villain or even a nondescript extra in that story is entirely up to you.
When you work with kids, every day you make a difference in their lives.
You can encourage them to reach for their dreams or dissuade them from taking risks.
You can treat them with warmth and compassion or coldness and animosity.
When they make mistakes, you can show them mercy or vindictiveness.
You can speak to them with kindness and politeness or sarcasm and harshness.
You can challenge them to reach heights they never knew possible, or undermine them with low expectations.
One thing is certain when you work with kids. Twenty years from now they will tell stories about the time they spent with you. In their stories, will you be a hero or a villain? It really is up to you.