You can spot them from a mile away- the shy, overwhelmed camper slowly emerging from the busload of cheerfully shouting kids.
This new camper creeps out of the masses and quietly moves to the outskirts of the excitement. The reserved camper, like a caterpillar, has no idea of what they can and will become with the nurturing and security that camp provides. However, as the weeks float by at camp, the caterpillar-like campers begin to find their voice and see firsthand that camp transforms us all into the best version of ourselves. Many of our favorite camp stories are those of campers going through a sort of metamorphosis while at camp that allows them to emerge from camp as beautiful and unique butterflies.
One such camper came to camp a few of summers ago. As she emerged from the bus on the first day of camp, she clung to her bumblebee pillow pet for dear life. Her older sister scurried ahead to join in on the excitement that was beginning to surge with the gathering masses. Meanwhile, the younger of the two sisters kept to herself, keeping her eyes fixated on the asphalt below her feet. As the first day of camp went on, this young lady was introduced to her counselors and bunkmates, and still, barely uttered a word. As the days went on, the camper continued to keep mostly to herself. During rest periods, while her cabinmates played games and painted their nails, the camper laid with her pillow pet, sometimes reading, sometimes resting, but always outside of the spotlight. Stil, her counselors did everything they could to make sure that this camper was included in the otherwise enthusiastic bunch of girls. One night, as kids all across camp prepared for a favorite evening program, the counselors worried that their shyest camper wouldn’t enjoy the raucous evening ahead. As the evening program began and cabin groups sprinted across camp, chanting and cheering as they tried to capture hidden counselors in an epic version of hide and seek, the camper quietly hung at the back of the pack. The other girls darted about, trying to sniff out each and every potential hiding spot, but it was their shy cabin mate who, while trailing her companions, happened to look up above her into the highest tree branches. There, she spotted the hidden counselor who her team had been seeking out. As she alerted her cabin, her excited cabin mates embraced her in an excited group hug. The shy camper had instantly become the hero of her bunk, and from that day forward, the camper had the confidence she needed to take on tasks that previously would have intimidated her. She began pursuing activities like the ropes course and found a love for archery, one which she shared with another camper in her cabin who quickly became a lifelong friend. By the end of the camp session, that camper had realized her passion for music that she shared with one of her counselors and her newfound bravery drove her to sing at closing campfire in front of the entire camp while her counselor played guitar. The camper left camp a changed person, one that was almost unrecognizable to the one she had been a few weeks prior.
Another camper started attending camp for the first time as a teenager and, upon arriving at camp and being surrounded by camp traditions and stories that he had not yet been privy to, he found reprise in keeping to himself. The more camp songs that were sung, the further he retreated into himself. It took a full week of camp before this camper came out of his shell, but it was well worth the wait. Once the camp spirit got into him, it didn’t leave. He went from quietly sitting on the outskirts of the lunch tables to leading camp songs in front of all of camp during meals. It wasn’t long before the camper was organizing camp skits, dressing in costumes, and fully embracing the camp lifestyle. When the final day of camp rolled around and it was time for final goodbyes, the formerly reserved camper found himself surrounded by campers of every age who gave him teary hugs as they said their goodbyes. The camper had transformed into a confident leader whose happiness was contagious.
Like a cocoon, camp and those who work at camp wrap campers up in a security blanket that provides campers with the safety and support each child needs to break out of their shell (or in this case, their chrysalis). As campers begin to feel comfortable in the camp environment, they are able to see their own true potential and begin to spread their wings. We all leave camp as changed individuals and can carry our newfound confidence with us far beyond the boundaries of camp. Like butterflies emerging from their cocoons, camp allows us to flourish into our the best versions of ourselves, so take a chance, jump right in, and let your true colors shine this summer!