This year’s Camp Or L’Dor, our 15th year (!), did not disappoint. Rabbi Nathan and Raina’s incredible work before camp even started, not to mention once there, Mary’s medical support, Cheryl’s amazing Challah and child care, Ken’s driving the trailer, Sid’s multi shleps during camp for supplies and airport runs, Jon’s overall help with whatever was needed, and all those who worked behind the scenes made camp great! It offered the spectrum of amazing highs and the usual camp drama that especially Rabbi Nathan and I are called to handle. First, the highs.
Where do I start? On my first prayer walk this year before the campers arrived, the word “transformation” was “heard”. It was shared with our group and sat with me throughout our two weeks together. I could see parts of it throughout as I watched many of the campers become able to disconnect from the secular, be away from their cell phones and social media, and be able to more clearly hear God. Our beautiful location at the Poconos Environmental Education Center definitely helped with that!
Morning Shachrit and healing prayer services were filled with the Ruach as I watched so many young people unselfconsciously join in praise and worship, including dance. Even the boys. The beauty of teens praying for other teens as Gabby Kaplan’s blessed voice permeated the two story glass walled vaulted ceiling room transported us ever closer to our Creator. At night gatherings the vulnerability of teens and young people sharing testimonies of God’s closeness filled our hearts. The highest of the highs was watching our community of 50 last Shabbat enter the river and surround one of our campers as he was immersed, the many other witnesses enjoying the water that day clapping and smiling as we sang David Melech in joy.
Having said all of that, this year perhaps gave Rabbi Nathan and me one of our harder years of interpersonal challenge vis-à-vis camp drama. Sadly, it involved some of our youth leadership team since it was interpersonal between some of the older and younger youth leaders. As when parents disagree in front of the children, the campers were not shielded from this, and so, it impacted their experience as well. Unfortunately, it reached its climax during the overnight camping trip making all the youth leaders less able to do what they were charged to do – to be there for the campers. No matter how much counseling our youth leaders received at camp, this issue will require more leadership training and organizational changes, more personal work by these individuals, and mostly, prayer.
This drama situation really brought home so many important messages. I was reminded of the power of words, and even subtle actions, their insidious ability to destroy not only our environment, but also, other people. Self awareness of our actions is something that comes with time, maturity, and the help of others in seeing ourselves through the eyes of others. I don’t think I’ve ever quoted the importance of putting ourselves in our brothers’ and sisters’ shoes as much as I did this year at camp.
I was reminded how just a person or two can affect the experience of so many, especially if they are in a leadership position. Thoughtless words and actions, whether intended or not, are contagious. Even subtle comments can pain another, perhaps moreso. I saw an inability to meet people where they are, to look past differences in leadership styles, properly handle personality differences.
Aren’t we all guilty of this at times? I was reminded that if we loved each other and acted kindly to each other, none of this hurtful behavior would be possible, nor would the collateral damage it causes to those around us. Being able to address our differences in constructive ways is part of life’s lessons and I pray will be one that will continue to be worked on this year by all of those involved. Despite this hiccup, well more like indigestion, and its ramifications, we were told by camper after camper how camp changed their lives, that they plan to be back, and how much they loved camp.
It is through the challenges that we grow. It is through mistakes that we get better. It is with time that young leaders’ mistakes become the stepping stones to their becoming future good leaders. All of this is the blessing of Camp Or L’Dor.