Camp, to me, has always been a safe place, from 11 year old camper to spending my 30th birthday at camp, it has always been a place that is safe for me to be me. It’s safe to have and show feelings sadness, joy, fear, trust, all very scary emotions I am comfortable sharing with my camp family.
I can remember as a camper having complete trust in my counselors, knowing I was always safe as long as I had them with me. Nothing has changed in 19 years except I don’t have counselors, I have brothers and sisters.
My first full summer as a counselor Big Boys was the last session, I was 18 and we were nearing the last day of camp. The day had been particularly trying but I was keeping my head up, as I walked through the parking lot on my break I happened to get hit by rock a camper had thrown. I found out later it was not thrown at me, I had just been unlucky. I told the campers to go away, I couldn’t talk to them in the moment. I remember sobbing behind one of the camp vehicles for minutes until a fellow counselor walked by and found me. All of the anxiety I had for my first year of college, the exhaustion from the previous sessions, and all the other feels I had been holding in came out in my tears. All the while my fellow counselor, my friend just held me, reassured me that my feelings were justified, that she loved me and god was always there to wipe my tears away. That moment has never left me, I hear those word just as clearly today as I did then. I understood in that moment that I would never bear any burden alone.
I still say some of my highest highs and lowest lows have taken place at camp. Throughout the years when things got hard I knew that my camp family was always there for me. So maybe camp isn’t my safe place, maybe it’s where my family is. Either way, I carry camp and my camp family close to my heart, knowing they will always be there for me.
by Gerry Pepeta