The Camp Director Has No Voice

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I lost my voice on Friday, just as the closing day of our June session was drawing to a close. Instead of improving over the weekend with some rest, it persisted. I greeted parents with whispers on Sunday, which was a bit frustrating for us all. I find myself in a strange place; one that is so unfamiliar to me. I am on the sidelines. Here I am as the person in charge, and I am not able to participate in my expected duties. For those of you who have been to Keystone Camp before, you know what that first flag-lowering means on Sunday evening. Then there are the instructions in the dining hall, and me greeting each girl as they go through the serving line to get their plate of spaghetti. Of course, we have campfire, sing songs and discuss the camp rules. Then I do a walk through of the cabins to work on learning the girls’ names. All of this took place without my voice and my presence.
For the first time in my 35 years leading Keystone, I took a step back, and I relied on my staff to make camp happen; to set the tone, to kick off the session as we always do, and they did a great job. Still without a voice today, I have been able to gain a new perspective on camp. I have been listening to camp happen, and I have been receiving gifts from others in this process. Monday brought so many wonderful “Get Well” cards from campers, new and old. Because I cannot speak to anyone, I am able to hear more conversations than I ever would have previously; conversations among the campers, among campers and counselors, and among our staff. They are so engaged with one another. The campers are sharing who they are and where they come from with each other. You can see the new friendships being made and old ones renewed. I am able to hear a counselor speak with a camper on a very specific issue of concern to the camper. The counselor’s focus is to help the camper find a solution. Our counselors are investing early and often in the successes of their campers. Among our staff, the give and take is constant: “How can I help you?” “What needs to be done next?” “Thank you for a great job.”
Camp generates a lot of noise, from music playing on speakers in the Pavilion to the laughter and shrieks of girls having fun throughout the day. Right now it is a combination of both as “Minute to Win It” is being played on the green. (Our four weekers are in camp while our Mini I girls are spending this evening at Sliding Rock and Dolly’s Ice Cream Bar.) These are the sounds I am most used to hearing in the course of my days, but the past two days have been very special as I have heard more of the conversations that make camp special. It is our investment of ourselves in time, conversation and relationships with others that really defines the camp experience. I look forward to having a voice again one day very soon, but in the meantime, I am enjoying being able to really hear camp through the voices of others.