When I Fell for Camp

She was bubbling over with excitement. She had heard so much about this place. This was her first time away from home. And yet some how she knew that her life was going to be different after coming here. While she knew that she was going to miss her family, she was excited to make new friends, and yes she was excited to meet a special someone. As they arrived she could not stay in her seat.

I am sure that this story rings true for those of us who remember going to camp for the first time or remember sending our children to camp for the first time. All of the excitement, all of those expectations of what that summer has in store. As the bus lurches forward you feel yourself opening up to the people on the bus. You are hardly able to sit in your seat as the bus pulls off the main road and you see that first sign for your camp. You have never been there before, but as you pull in you know that you are home.

And while this is my story of going to camp for the first time, it is also the story of Rebecca as we read in last week’s Torah portion. There we read,

Then Rebecca and her maids got ready and mounted their camels and  went back with the man. So the servant took Rebecca and left. Now Isaac had come from Be’er Lahai Roi, for he was living in the Negev. He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. And Rebecca lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she fell off the camel. (Genesis 24:61- 64)

Rebecca was that first happy camper coming home. She fell in love at first sight. Just as I fell in love as a camper. It was not with a person, those crushes and relationships came and went. It was not with that place, even though it will endure in my memory as a place filled with kiddusha, holiness. I fell in love with the person I allowed myself to be in that place.

Many years ago my camp supervisor mailed me the following story. Once there was a Rebbe who had a yeshiva. His son studied in the Yeshiva. One day the son took off the afternoon to go walking in the forest. The father said nothing. But over time the son took to taking off every afternoon to walk in the forest. At this point the father realized that he needed to confront his son. The Rebbe said to his son, “ I hear that you are walking in the forest every afternoon. Why are you doing this?” The son replied that he was looking for God. The Rebbe was puzzled and asked, “Did I not teach you that God is the same everywhere?” The son replied, “ Abba, I know that God is the same everywhere, but I am not.” When and where in my life was I more open to being all of whom I aspired to become? It was when I got off that bus for the first time, and it was at camp.

While I love the place and I love that time in my life, I realize that I owe a lot to my counselors. More than what I saw in them as role models, it was what my role models saw in me when I tumbled off that bus. They shared with me a glimpse of the person that I am still working on becoming. And that is why I fell in love with camp.

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