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Jewfro (Ben) age 8

Be the Camp You Wish to See in the World

Those of us who had the privilege of going to camp recall both the sun-kissed memories and the annual autumnal irony of how our tall tales failed to translate in the non-camp world. But now that we’ve doubled or tripled our camp age — older but none the wiser beyond bunk beds and bug bites — it’s high time to bring some camp back into our lives:

Tie games are great games.

The winner is… immaterial. It may be a dog-eat-dog world, but do we really want the cannibalistic canines mantra to permeate all aspects of our lives?

Don’t we pay professional athletes handsomely to duke it out to the bitter-end so we don’t have to? And yet, even friendly competition among coworkers or classmates dare not end without crowning a victor — and trouncing a loser.

We should have the audacity to conclude contests — from time to time — with a draw. Rather than chalking up a cousin-kissing, zero-sum calculation, let’s elevate the tie to a cosmic, if fleeting, balance of opposing parts in an otherwise asymmetrical world — or the final score before the bell for general swim.

You are how you eat.

I grew up in a pre-Leo’s, no-refined-sugar household and even I managed to manipulate my meals to avoid insidious ingredients like mustard, tomatoes and avocado.

But at camp, everyone eats whatever there is to eat, unless you are my nephew, in which case you go on a week-long hunger strike until your counselors buckle. For most, including this author, that meant trying new foods for the first time in a place where you couldn’t spit into a napkin and lobby for Mac ‘n’ Cheese.

Everyone eating the same thing — same time, same place — makes for the best kind of breaking bread togetherness… even if it’s not the best kind of bread.

Everyone can sing because no one can sing.

Your inner-camper is rockin’ out — pump up the volume or at least release the mute button. Even amidst the creep of adolescence at camp, we knew the words (and hand gestures) to Itsy-Bitsy Spider and unleashed them with impunity.

Where is it written that singing well correlates with singing happily? Empirical evidence suggests the opposite is often true. There’s no shared etymology between “Camp” and “camp” — adj. deliberately exaggerated and theatrical in style, typically for humorous effect. But they align in space where, free from the social inhibitions of a judgmental world, you can go up the spout again.

God made dirt; dirt don’t hurt.

Try as we may to sanitize the world around us, the fact is that we live in a bacterial world. And, even if you aren’t a bacterial girl, you can’t Febreeze yourself into antiseptic asylum.

Instead, let’s do like the barefoot, hands-on, head-first campers and — accounting for food safety and personal hygiene — embrace the messiness of the world around us.

Instant gratification’s gonna get you.

The waiting is, indeed, the hardest part; new technologies have elevated delays to dentistry levels on the National Registry of Aggravations (NRA).

But, just as a sip of Kedem Grape Juice (or gulp of Faygo Grape) is no substitute for the fruition of fine wine, an email will never say “wish you were here” like a well-weathered postcard.

Nor will spying a look at your digital camera capture the Porcupine Mountains at dusk as well as a roll of film developed weeks later. You may get a chance to review and retake — that is, if the sun doesn’t set while you’re looking down.




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