By Brian O’Leary
I hope you understand me correctly: being a camp counselor was an excellent experience and I enjoyed it thoroughly. But it is not for everyone. I am not going to tell everyone at Goshen College to go apply to work at summer camp when June rolls around. Being a camp counselor is a mentally (and emotionally) exhausting, low income and ridiculously frustrating job. It is also a morally, emotionally and spiritually rewarding experience.
By the end of the first week at Drift Creek Camp in Oregon, which happened to be high school week, I was exhausted. Counseling high schoolers really takes it out of you. The other weeks at camp were equally exhausting. It seemed that week after week we always had at least one camper who needed our patience, forgiveness and innate ability to listen.
Then, it all came to a climax during fifth and sixth grade week. That was the week where I broke down. Every morning during staff meeting there was always something absolutely heart breaking to listen to. Something about that age group; abuse, loss, difficult home situations. We heard all these every morning. I personally had the experience of a camper opening up to me about loss. I won’t go into detail, but thank goodness I don’t cry very much because otherwise I would have been bawling. But that is why camps exist. Sure, they exist to make sure kids have a great time and to give them somewhere to go during the summer months. But also because sometimes kids just need a safe place to go. Some kids are stuck in a difficult situation for their whole lives; camp could be the best week of their whole year. Which is why counseling is not for everyone.
To be a camp counselor you have to be willing to sacrifice your own happiness to make sure that kid you are with is having a great time. You have to be willing to be energetic even when you almost fell asleep at breakfast. You have to find a way to talk seriously to kids who are half your age. It is not all fun and games, though that would be awesome. It is all these sacrifices that made Drift Creek Camp an amazing place this summer. In closing, I just want to thank all the Drift Creek staff who may be reading this for making the summer of 2010 what it was.