I hear the phrase with some regularity. I used to cringe, or worse, fume. Sometimes a visitor will say it rather wistfully as they stand on the deck of Eden Hall and look out to the mountains. Often a staff member will use some version of it as explanation for why they won’t be returning to Rockmont for another summer. I get it. I really do. But it still gives me pause. You see, every time I hear “well…this isn’t the real world,” I imagine that I and everyone around me are animated characters brought to life by some crew of highly inventive real people. I think of Jim Carrey in the 1998 movie, The Truman Show, and wonder who our audience is.
Now, I know that camp life can feel a bit like living in a bubble, similar to Jim Carrey’s fishbowl existence. To suggest, however, that the real world is out there somewhere, in the outside world, is to imply that camp life is…well, fake. Here’s where the rub is for me when I hear someone quip “Gotta get back to the real world,” because I know that that world — the 9 to 5 one, with coats and ties and constant news, the morning commute and daily errands — is no more real than the one right here. Different, but not more real.
It’s true that most of the world doesn’t wake each day to the prompting of bugles, but the sound of laughter is no less infectious here at camp than elsewhere. The sense of accomplishment is no less rewarding. The value of intentional relationships is no less important.
I believe in the power of relationships. Perhaps more than anything else, relationships provide opportunity for tremendous new growth. We learn about ourselves as we observe how we relate to others and to the world — as friends, husbands and wives, teammates, co-workers, classmates, siblings, cabin mates, etc. Camp life is rich with opportunities for personal growth because of the relationships formed here. Just ask the campers who get up early to venture down to the lake for a stint of pre-breakfast fishing and find “dawn-treaders” eagerly waiting for them. Dawn-treaders are the adults assigned to greet those boys and help them bait their poles and wait with them on the bank for the first nibble.
Ask Nick from cabin 31 what has surprised him most about his time at Rockmont and you’ll hear him talk about his friendship with Sonny “who’s just that cool!” (For a glimpse of Sonny’s unique ability to “beat box,” click the video link at the end of this article.) Ask Paxton in cabin 4 about his counselor, Joe, and you may hear him tell about how he likes that Joe “always defends us in field games.” How great to trust that someone older and bigger than you has your back! Ask the camper who spent the night in the infirmary and you may hear about the kindness of the nurses, but also the longing to return to the cabin to be with new-found friends. Ask Brad to name a significant camp event and listen as he enthusiastically tells about mastering his kayak roll. Then observe kayak skill head, Chip Rouse, work with the campers to learn each step of the roll and hear his encouragement as they keep trying and his celebration when their persistence pays off.
Wikipedia states that “Real most often refers to reality, the state of things as they actually exist.” Well folks, what actually exists at camp is intentional shared living. Two thousand years ago, Jesus showed us how to do it — how to learn together, to serve one another, to pray together, to encourage, trust and forgive one another, to come to the table together. Jesus showed us, through the power of relationship, how to love. Here at camp we get to practice what Jesus taught…every day, every moment, NOW! If life at Rockmont isn’t real, then I don’t think I want to return to the real world. Growth happens here, and it’s remarkable! Hope all of you on the outside are growing, too.
With gratitude for the gift of this moment in this very real place,