Summer Camps Challenge the Idea of What “Cool” is

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When Michael Jackson first did the moonwalk on national television people went nuts. Nobody had ever seen anything like it. It defied what we thought was possible. Here was a man that glided backwards along the floor with ease and there was no rope pulling him. Was it some kind of illusion? We all wanted to do it and we all tried over and over to emulate Michael. Moonwalking was cool and so was Michael Jackson. He had started a movement.

The same goes for camp. Most first time campers go to camp and experience a positive and safe world they never knew existed. They try things they never thought they would try. They see adults behave in ways they couldn’t imagine adults behaving. Their beliefs are challenged. Could this place be real? Is it some kind of illusion? What does it mean to be “cool”. Campers quickly decide they want to be like their counselors – hopefully for all the right reasons.

I came a cross the video below the other day and the first thing I thought was, “Hey, that looks like the behavior of camp people.” When you watch the video I’ll bet a lot of you will agree with me. When you watch it you’ll see how someone who is obviously not what society would call “cool”, becomes the king of cool and starts a movement where letting go and being fun and silly is accepted and embraced. It reminded me a lot of what camp can offer.

Camp is such a special and unique place.

Camp is a place where kids and adults can be silly and not ridiculed. In fact, many times the sillier you are the cooler you are.

You’ve seen it time and time again –  two counselors act like crazy knuckleheads having fun while the other camp staff (including directors) clap, laugh and enjoy the pure madness of it all, before they join in themselves.

Camp is a place where kids and staff can be whomever they like, silly or not.

And that is magic. That is a gift. Neither campers nor staff  have to be the victims, the shy wall-flowers, the insecure bullies, or the “I’m too cool for school” people they might be back home.

Camp is a place to reinvent yourself.

I have a friend who used to be extremely shy all through her childhood and into college. One summer she got a job as a camp counselor at the suggestion of a friend. During staff training the director talked about how each new staff member could take this opportunity to reinvent themselves, be the person they have always wanted to be, because nobody knew them at camp yet. Nobody knew their past. All the luggage they have been carrying with them can be left at home and they can start fresh.

This is a powerful piece of knowledge for new staff. It can be an awakening. My friend decided right then that she didn’t want to be that shy girl who was afraid to be silly, make friends, be daring, or try new things. She was going to spread her wings and fly. The caterpillar was turning into a butterfly.

Camp is a movement!

A movement is defined as a series of actions or activities intended or tending toward a particular end.

Camp is a movement in so many ways. It’s movement for kids to turn off the world and experience nature, community, new ideas, teamwork and a host of positive traits like patience, understanding and kindness. It’s a movement to recondition the mind of what “cool”  is. Yes, being cool can mean being a silly, loving, understanding person who is creative, courageous and friendly.

Camp is a movement for staff as well. Camp staff experience all the same things that campers experience; their idea of “cool” is also challenged.

Have you ever been at a camp where this kind of environment or culture doesn’t exist, or at least it doesn’t resonate with most of the staff? Sadly, I have, and I’ve learned that it just takes one person to change that environment. It takes one person to lead a revolution, to show the rest of them that fun, silliness, listening, understanding, forgiveness, responsibility, singing, trust, caring, kindness, encouragement, friendship, peace, laughter, honesty, respect, attention, sportsmanship, and leadership all have their place at camp.

Do you need to start a movement at your camp? If so, watch the video below. If not, it’s still an enjoyable video worth watching.

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