It is impossible for children to remain homesick once they see that they are already home.
Trip break is an interesting time at Surprise Lake Camp. Our first session campers have departed, but our Session Two campers have not yet arrived. The specialists get to play at being counselor for a day and half, and the eight week campers get to do a few new things. Camp feels a little empty, like a city on a holiday weekend when many residents have left town, but also a bit more intimate.
One of the cool things our eight week main side campers get to do is have open curfew on teen side for evening activity. This is like a mini-Shabbat Walk with counselors and supervisors posted, and the children at liberty in a relatively small, contained, area.
Just around twilight a teen camper from Merrylane walks over with a Moutainview view girl who seemed to be having a hard time. This little girl was away from home for the very first time, but, like some other campers, was just having too much fun to leave. Her parents agreed to have her stay all eight weeks, but the girl knew that although this is what she wanted, it would be difficult for the first few days. And now, as he sun was leaving the sky on this unfamiliar part of camp, she was feeling torn.
The three of us sat down on a rock and began talking, the older camper complimenting the younger one for her bravery at making such a big choice her very first time away from home. In a moment they were talking like old friends and I asked how they knew each other.
“We don’t,” said the older girl. “She just looked like she need a little help.”
Soon, a Teenside boy joined us and talked about his own struggle with home sickness and how he could only bare to stay four weeks in his Mountainview day, though a big part of him had wanted to extend as well. A few moments later some of the younger girl’s friends noticed us, and now there was the whole circle of support around her as the light faded from the sky.
This is what our camp is about. We have athletic fields to play on, stages to perform on, and hiking trails to walk. We have a pool and a lake for swimming and boating. But none of that makes us special.
Children who come here- even for just four weeks- come to understand that Surprise Lake Camp is a giant family, stretching back 117 years and going forward indefinitely. It is a place where even people who have never seen you before notice you, embrace you and genuinely care for you.
One day, this young camper will be on teen side herself- or even a counselor or supervisor- and she will tell about the time when she was homesick and people whom she did not even now took care of her.