Being outside in order to grow inside

Published 10:49am Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Two weeks ago I completed my 16th summer as the baker at Camp Glen Arden for Girls in Tuxedo, N.C.
In spite of the relentless heat, I came home in August more convinced than ever of the benefit of summer camps for children.
Many of us went to a summer camp as children. I went to Girls Scout camps and absolutely loved it. I have a picture of my mother swimming in a lake at the summer camp she went to somewhere in western Pennsylvania. I have no idea of the name of her camp, but I remember my camps well: Camp Mogisca and Camp Mosey Wood.
It was during those years at camp that I began my love affair with nature. Being outside was a source of learning and excitement, as well as comfort and relaxation. Ask any teenage girl if she wants comfort and relaxation and she’ll tell you that you are nuts; she wants excitement. But us old folks know that it takes a healthy balance in life to make a healthy adult.
Few of today’s youngsters go to camp. I think the reason is a combination of the fact that camp is expensive, and more importantly it is not considered a necessity in our modern materialistic society.
Parents are more likely to buy a new car or boat when they have the money than send their children to camp. More families own second homes than ever before in history, yet summer camps are going out of business at an unprecedented rate.
From kindergarten on, children are plugged into media selling sex, beer and gadgets. The parents are off at work. It might be safe to say that it is easier to go to work these days than it is to stay at home to raise children in a world that is totally confusing for them and us. What is of real value?
According to the media it is something to buy. According to my mother, it is something that you cannot see or hold, like learning to play an instrument, or learning to ski or an experience that builds character, like summer camp.
Grandparents, grandmothers in particular, pay the tuition for more than half of Glen Arden’s campers. It has to do with what us old women consider as valuable for our grandchildren.
Whatever time I have out of the kitchen I spend in the Carving Hut. There is a lot of talking while the girls are whittling.
They are “unplugged” from media and friends at home as soon as camp begins, the consequence being that strong bonds are created between these girls. Some of the girls come from “normal” families; some come from families with an alcoholic parent, which makes life confusing in a world promoting alcohol and sex for any teenager wanting to have a good time.
In the safety of the Carving Hut I hear a lot. These girls are trying to figure out who they are in a world telling them what they “should” be. I see young girls who are fed so much information they have lost the ability to think for themselves, to answer their own questions and to problem solve. I can remember being a teenager, when the media was not so relentless, and it was hard.
Being outside, with nothing but the sound of the trees or the waterfall or friends jumping into the lake, gives those girls time to just think, and be.
Can you remember being able to run out your door to go over to a friend’s house, just to talk or play? Can you remember being able to go into your friend’s house even if they weren’t there because the door was not locked; you could leave a note on the kitchen table? Can you remember all the things you learned walking home from school?
That is not an option for today’s children. They can go to their Iphones or computers only, because our houses are locked up tight.
Camp is one of the only places I know of where children are free to just “be,” outside where there is no judgment, only acceptance. Next time you are thinking about giving your grandchildren a gift, consider giving a gift that will last the rest of their lives.

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