When I prepare to say goodbye to a session, I like to spend my final evening with the girls reflecting on our time together. I think through the past weeks about the things I have seen and heard as the girls experience camp, and overwhelmingly I keep coming back to “community.” There is a lot of negativity in our world right now, and thankfully, being at camp presents a stark contrast. Here at Keystone, we build an intentional community of strong, resilient girls and our community continues long after the actual camp days end.
It has been a great pleasure to have so many alumnae come through the doors to visit this year. They love to see how camp has changed and kept up with the times. Just as important though is that camp still “feels the same.” These are my favorite conversations with the alums who visit. We want Keystone to remain a constant for those who experience it. Today, we had a grandmother bring her granddaughter to look at camp. The granddaughter will be the 3rd generation of the family to attend Keystone.
I am continually amazed at the connectedness of the Keystone community. Thanks to our website, Facebook and Instagram, our alums are as up to date with what is going on as the girls here at camp. Our “moms” put on a great lip-sync performance the other evening, and the Instagram ‘likes’ hit immediately. Its impressive that a group of 40+ year olds garner the cheers of the next generation! I hear that my blogs are shared among many of our alums as soon as they are posted. We have a great group of alums who are supporting our current counselors with notes and treats; another example of the special community we have.
What does it mean to be a member of the Keystone community? You belong. You are part of something larger than yourself. You have a specific role to fill – as a member of a cabin, as the bowman in a boat, as a belayer, as a member of a team, etc. We value what you bring to the rest of us. We want to learn about you and from you. You are known – we know your name and where you come from. We know your story. We invest of ourselves in you. We cheer your successes. We share your struggles. We bring our real selves to each other. This is never more evident than as we wrap up the session. Seeing the final week performances and the level of enthusiasm of the crowd for each and every skill and talent on display truly warms your heart. I especially appreciated the engagement and participation of our staff in these performances. I found myself smiling throughout the entire event. I was so proud to witness this incredible community of girls who were truly present for each other.
Why is community building so important? In today’s world, we don’t spend enough time thinking about the whole of us. It is so easy to become overwhelmed with our own existence: our jobs, our schedules, our goals, our needs, ourselves. At camp, the group takes priority. We become one part of a whole. We have to support that which allows the whole to succeed. Yes, there is individual time and opportunities to meet individual needs, but camp would not work if the community didn’t work.
I take issue with the tone in the world today. There is too much anger and negativity and not enough conversation about elevating all of us as one. I say this as a camp director and a local elected official. I am the sole woman on the Transylvania County Board of Commissioners, and I have learned a lot of lessons about community in that capacity. (You may hear rumors about my run for President from your daughter, but I am just fine where I am.) Leadership comes with great responsibility, and we impress this on our girls. Leadership is by example. It is intentional, thoughtful and inclusive. At camp, our goal is to engage each and every one of our girls in our larger community. We want to raise their awareness of their role in building a strong community and making a better world.
For final campfire, our CITs (Counselors-in-Training) select a song they share with the group. The selection for tonight was “For Good” from the musical “Wicked.” It could not have been more appropriate for our conversation about community with some of its lyrics:
That people come into our lives for a reason Bringing something we must learn And we are led to those Who help us most to grow if we let them And we help them in return But because I knew you I have been changed for good
I also value Atul Gawande’s comments in his commencement speech at the University of North Carolina in May of 2014:
Just existing for your desires feels empty and insufficient, because our desires are fleeting and insatiable. You need a loyalty. The only way life is not meaningless is to see yourself as part of something greater: a family, a community, a society.
Camp has given us a place to feel a part of something greater, and we are better for it. We hope to see all of our girls back again next year. Thank you for sharing them with us in this journey for good.