This is the first time in four years that I'm not packing up my wolf shirts, water bottle, bandanas and Bible to live with me in the forest for ten weeks. It's the strangest feeling and I've felt the urge to get in my car and drive to camp immediately at least twelve times in the last five days.
But perhaps you have packed. Maybe you are about to drive down the gravel road to the forest. From somebody with "professional sleeping bag roller, four years experience" on her resume, here are some words written just for you.
You may never know if your feet are dirty or if you have a Chaco tan line. It's probably both. Accept that as a badge of honor, just as you should accept being called "weird" as a characteristic of a superhero.
My friend, it takes a special breed of human to be a camp counselor. Congratulations, you have made the cut. Have all the coffee but have no expectations. Walk ten miles a day. It's really no biggie.
When a camper wakes you up at two in the morning because a wolf spider and her egg sack are creeping in the outhouse, please simply put a sign on the door directing them to the bathhouse instead. There are some spiders you can deal with. A wolf spider, her egg sack and an outhouse at 2 a.m. is not a circumstance you should have to deal with.
Be proud when your girls whisper to you that they peed clear because that means you made sure they're hydrated. Be jazzed when another tells you she was excited about having a frog in her shower. Make each day close, real and good. Make every day like one you haven't seen before. At some point it's going to be your 50th day of camp, but it will be your campers' first day.
Make up long jokes that don't make sense. Tell outrageous bedtime tales, even to the high schoolers. I promise they'll like it. Your campers will soak in every word of your stories, and they'll crave to share their own when they know they're in a safe space with you. You can either tune them out or listen hard. Choose to listen and love them deeply. Make them know they are seen by you and God because maybe they feel invisible back home. This is your chance to be a world changer.
Invest in the work. It's more valuable and more precious than you can even dream of. I beg you, make your God-given time on the fruitful camp soil worth it every day you're there. Don't sleepwalk while you're awake.
When you're a camp counselor, you build fires and campers come to them. Some nights they'll be one-match sculptural masterpieces. Other times you'll battle humidity so hard that you start frantically whispering prayers to God that your fire might start before the campers hike down the trail for worship.
Build your campfires. Figure out if you like the log cabin or teepee structure best. I personally like the cabin. Peel bark off logs for kindling and gather small twigs and dried foliage from the forest floor. Light your match or take the lighter from your backpack. Fan the flame once it begins to catch. You'll have to work to sustain your fire like you'll work to sustain your staff community.
Try as you might, you can't force connection and you won't always get along. When you haven't showered in three days, have 37 mosquito bits on just one leg, and another camp counselor is getting on your very last nerve, you may feel like you're barely holding onto the edge. Take a breather and then step back to the present. You never know what they're just barely holding on too, so please love each other hard. Be the light because your campers are always watching. You can't be a superhero camp counselor by yourself. You cannot do this life alone, and you're not called to.
Let hearts be changed during nightly campfire worship and let your lungs breathe in the woodsy air during night hikes. Watch in the forest for the nights when thousands of fireflies glimmer around the trees. That is pure camp magic.
Let campers call you their older brother or sister. Give them space for cabin talk because that's when community is formed. It's a good opportunity to share your own sweet wisdom about life, school, boys and faith.
Humble yourself. Seek God's will this summer and call on him so that you can speak truth and love to your campers. The last night of camp will roll around each week. You'll sit around the fire, tears flowing and the Holy Spirit dancing around you and you'll know for sure that God is sitting next to you on the log.
You might evolve into your best self at camp. Carry that person with you after you leave. The seemingly small things you do over the summer will indeed ripple out to spaces you may never even see. Plant the seeds anyways and trust that God will do the nurturing and harvest.
Be fearless in your faith. Carry bravery with you and dispel every lie you tell yourself -- that your hands are much too small to do the work, that you're incapable of being a world changer, that your actions are insignificant. My friend, God blankets you in grace and sufficiency. You're valuable, worthy and seen. Don't forget that for a second.
Take the Sabbath. God can usually renew your energy better than a nap can. God worked and rested, and took delight in both. You should too. Gift rest to your fellow camp counselors, but also ask them for help. Be careful to not stretch yourself too thin but don't be too relaxed in the work. Fight the battle to establish balance.
Promise to fail. It's okay. But don't let that consume you. Dig out anything that's not serving you or speaking to your faith this summer. Let God fill the holes. Keep lists of your victories and the God winks you see, both large and small.
Make camp your sanctuary. Make it the place you crave to go back to when you're in the real world and you need to find yourself again. Let camp serve you as you serve it. If your heart is open, camp can help you find your place in the world, a place where you can take your broken pieces, insecurities and messes. Find your tribe. Be forest dwellers and bed stealers. Be church goers, fire builders, life talkers and s'mores eaters.
The work you do as a camp counselor is good. You will change lives, whether you see it or not. Maybe you'll get an Instagram DM weeks after the summer ends saying that she wrote a school essay about how you're her role model and you made her feel seen.
My friend, you are about to spend the next ten weeks of your life as a camp counselor. You ARE ready. What you're going to do WILL matter. The time is s'now to be a world changer, my dear sweet skippy.
As a camp counselor of four summers, I am rooting for you so hard.
Much love and many cinnamon rolls,