It’s A Brave New World

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Here we are again with a session closing night. The final campfire is ahead of us. Music is playing outside my window with cabins dancing, Enos are swinging, and the campers are happy.

This session felt very new to us. Normally, the month of July is a four-week run with some of our most experienced campers. This two week session saw 65% of the campers in their first or second summer with us. What a change from our “normal” experience in July! Thus, we had a great opportunity to learn together, and boy, did we all learn in this summer of COVID.

We made several changes from June to July. Because our group was about 25 campers larger, we ran a split schedule. We would gather together outside in our socially distant spots for flag-raising and assemblies, but otherwise our interactions didn’t happen unless we passed each other on the road going between activities. For the first time ever, meals were in shifts. Since we were new to this, the first couple of days involved a few adjustments, but we quickly got in the swing of things. This definitely messed with our sense of organization, but we managed. One of the great side benefits in all of this has been time within the cabin groups. I get the sense that the girls feel a stronger sense of belonging to their group. The girls travel as one. Spending their days traveling through activities as a cabin has given the girls a lot more time together than ever before. We have received so much positive feedback from the girls expressing how strong their friendships have grown this summer and that they would like traveling as a cabin to become a part of future summer schedules. It has been remarkable to watch the girls bond, laugh and grow together despite the challenges this year and summer have presented.

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When I look back at the previous paragraphs, I have referenced “normal” and “normally.” There really isn’t any true “normal” this summer, and there won’t be any “normal” this fall. In my personal opinion we have reached a new normal that has the potential of being very fluid. So what do we creatures of habit do? We must find a way to adjust to a brave, new world.

The hard part in all of this is that so much of what we need to do to protect ourselves and stay healthy is in direct opposition to who we want to be. We are social creatures who need contact with others. We thrive on close relationships and physical interactions. We need each other, and we knew that children needed camp this summer more than ever after the months of isolation in which we had all been living.

This summer happened because we were all willing to take a chance, to be brave in the face of adversity. We felt strongly that the girls needed camp, and for that reason, we had to figure out how to make camp happen within the recommendations of our public health officials. We had to assume the risk that we could not expect to remain COVID free for the entire summer. We needed our families to assume risk as well in sending their girls to camp. We also needed our campers to be brave in the face of the unknown. Camp might look very different to them, and our community flow might change a lot. We knew that not everyone was ready or able to join in, and we support those who are taking a summer away from camp. Our relationships with our camp families are built on trust and transparency. Each family had to make the best decision for their child, and we respect those decisions.

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This is not the summer to worry about filling up camp. This is the summer to figure out our new world. We were grateful to start out so small and to gradually add girls as we felt able to manage our new ways of camp life. At the halfway point, we have learned a lot, and we continue learning each day. Each time a session closes and another opens, we start completely over to manage the health and well-being of our camp community. Just one elevated temperature out of 85 girls makes us stop in our tracks and consider all of the possible threats to our community health. The collective sigh was audible when the temperature disapeared after a short stay in the infirmary. We worry constantly. However, we believe the importance of camp challenges us to navigate our fears.

We received a care package today from one of our camp parents. In it was a card citing

Bravery is not the absence of fear. Bravery is feeling the fear, the doubt, the insecurity, and deciding that something else is more important.

Based on my Google search, this is a quote from Mark Manson. I can guarantee that all of us at Keystone have felt the fear, the doubt and the insecurity this spring and summer. We are proud to have made camp happen. We appreciate the gift of having your girls with us for the past two weeks. Most especially, we are grateful for another two week session without any incidence of COVID.

We will hope your girls will be back with us next summer as we continue to adapt to our brave, new world.