When words just won't do...

Ironically, it was me who first mentioned to the other directors to have a Camp PALS blog. I say that neither to take credit for its creation (Jason is the computer guy) nor its content (campers, counselors, and especially Ben have done an incredible job!). Instead, I do so to make a point. It was I who thought that it was possible to put Camp PALS into words.

And now, finally, nearly two weeks later, I finally find myself sitting down and attempting to reflect on the experience that now seems, strangely, so long ago.

How to put Camp PALS into words? It seemed like an easy task that Sunday two weeks ago. Writing about Camp PALS is what I do. I write most of the letters that go out to Campers and counselors during the year. I write the short explanations to potential funders about our goals and methods. But somehow, during the week, I found myself utterly incapable of explaining the experience. Maybe it was the fatigue, I surmised. Or potentially the sheer lack of time to sit down and reflect. Besides, I reasoned, Ben Coulter was doing a great job organizing the posts; why should I interfere.

So here I am, two weeks later, attempting to reflect. And I begin to wonder if the question is not how to put Camp PALS into wordsbut actually can you? And, for me, the answer is no. I find myself impotent to express Camp in concrete language.

Yes, I have many great memories of Camp. Of Eli, of Ashley, of Bryan, of Chris, of my college roommate, Daniel, one of our new counselors, and many more. And yes, I have many anecdotal recollections. But, to me, none of these memories, stories, or thoughts can come close to describing Camp PALS.

At Camp PALS, we do lots of really cool things. Bowling, tennis, yoga, the beach, and miniature golf are just a few examples. One of the best things about being a director is that I get to walk around and experience all of these incredible opportunities. But Camp PALS isn’t bowling, it isn’t tennis, and it isn’t the beach (even if the official t-shirt’s palm tree might beg to differ).

So then what it is? It might be an up-tempo melody, a nice sensation, an unexpected emotion. But one thing for sure is that it is about being there, experiencing it all. The joy, the fatigue, the smiles, and, at the end of the week, the tears. With friends. Real friends. Who care about you. Who you know will still be there year after year after year.

And, suddenly, I begin to understand why, as I was growing up, my friends could never explain their summers at camp to me. Why they would travel to far-off places to visit their camp friends. Why they always seemed to be missing something during the year. And if Camp PALS has turned out to be just another of those unexplainable experiences – if it has turned out to be just another summer camp – I couldn’t be happier.

[Josh Stein is a co-founder and co-director of Camp PALS.]

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