We never leave camp the same as we were when we arrived. There is always something we take home with us even if it isn’t evident right away. After all, what’s the use of coming to camp if it leaves you where it found you? It’s not just about some fun activities to do during the summertime (even though, yes, camp is a blast!). It’s not even just about the friends you make (even though, yes, the friendships at camp will last a lifetime). Beyond the fun times, and beyond the meaningful friendships, camp shows its true value in your life when you find yourself in some challenging situation later in the year, and—just when you need it—a summertime lesson comes to thought and guides you through.
This fall I found myself dressed entirely in black wearing a creepy doll mask, concealed behind a sheet in a dark room of a haunted house. Had I even been to a haunted house before? Nope. Had I mastered the skill of spooking people? Certainly not. Still, here I was: a ghoul for a night. Interestingly, even though I was the one doing the spooking and scaring, I found myself out of my comfort zone. Apparently, scaring people isn’t a highly social activity. I discovered this as I stood in the dark waiting for people to walk by with nothing but the soundtrack of a cackling witch to keep me company. Frankly, I was feeling my own version of homesickness, yearning to be in the company of my friends who were spooking in other rooms of the house. I was too timid to scream loudly or to burst out in front of a group of people, which made the first few groups to pass through difficult for me. All I could think about was my own discomfort.
Then during a quiet moment between groups, I thought back to a similar feeling that I’d had this summer when I went on the Challenge to play with one of the teams. During one evening’s game of Capture the Flag, I was on defense very close to our team’s flag. The other team was quietly approaching, and just as with the haunted house, I was far from my comfort zone. Standing in the dark presented the illusion that I was alone with a lot of responsibility on my shoulders. However, the turning point came when I remembered that even though I felt alone standing there in the dark silence, there were other team members doing the same. If it were daylight, I wouldn’t be feeling nearly as alone because I would be able to spot my teammates a few yards away. With that (not only their presence but also their mutual efforts to do their best and be alert), my discomfort was replaced with confidence. Then I thought about the other team: it consisted of campers and counselors whom I loved dearly. They had the same pure motive to do their best that I had. Once I remembered that we were all playing together in this game, even though we represented opposing teams, I realized that there was no true adversary trying to attack. The Capture the Flag game progressed harmoniously, and I successfully and joyfully filled my role on defense.
This memory was just what I needed during my ghoul adventure. Just as with Capture the Flag, when I viewed everyone involved—customers and ghouls alike—as participating together, then my discomfort completely disappeared. Everyone had the same goal of having fun, so naturally we’d all be working together for that goal. The lesson here reminds me of what Paul says in I Corinthians, “As the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. There should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.” (I Cor. 12:12, 25) This simple thought of the unity of everyone involved corrected my view of the situation and enabled me to expand my comfort zone.
Not everyone would guess that a ghoul at a haunted house would be standing behind that sheet thinking about summer camp, but in my case it was thinking about a summertime lesson that enabled me to persevere during an uncomfortable situation. Experiences like this go to show the value of the growth that happens at camp, and I love thinking about the innumerable other ways that Kohahna’s lessons are being brought to life throughout the year.