One Happy Camper
What does God want from us?
At a very basic level, He wants us to obey Him. He is the source of objective truth, and in proclaiming His word, necessarily wants us to save souls through evangelization. Sure, there are a lot of ways to do this. You can knock on doors. You can grab a megaphone and stand on a park bench at a festival. But more than likely, we’re disposed to trust those closest to us – friends, (rational) family members, and especially the clergy. But out of that group, which of these are we most likely to share our lives with on the deepest level? I would argue that our friends bear the brunt (delight?) of this responsibility – our really, really good friends (you know, the friends that wouldn’t go to the cops).DOWNLOAD THE BULLETIN
And yet the number of these types of friends drops off precipitously as we age. We’re not talking about your Facebook friends either. My favorite barometer of friendship is the airport test, that is – pick your most random Facebook “friend” and message them, asking if they’d drop you off/pick you up at the airport between the hours of 10:00 pm and 6:00 am. See how long it takes them to get back to you.
Life gets busy. People move, take new jobs and start families. Schedules are squeezed into margins of error so small that after long periods of time, we exhaustively look back and think “what happened today/this month/this year?” Time for friendship gets marginalized, and not just for adults. Children’s schedules are packed just as tight.
As children’s recreation is now done primarily indoors (thanks, Family Watchdog), and as communication grows ever more impersonal (thanks, Snapchat), I think the fear for a lot of parents has become their children’s inability to engage in friendships starting at a young age – friendships that would one day reach deeper levels of intimacy. When this type of passive isolation becomes a social norm, we have to re-double our efforts to counteract it. God wants connection. Satan prefers loneliness.
One of our Parishioners, Lindsey Gregory, found the antidote 10 years ago – summer camp. She doesn’t prescribe any such camp except Good Counsel Summer Camp in Floral City, FL. “It’s about 45 minutes south of Ocala in the middle of the state,” Lindsey shares. Oh, yes, the middle of nowhere.
According to their website, as a Catholic camp, Good Counsel provides “the unique opportunity to gather for the celebration of the Mass… Bible vigils, Benediction and other prayer experiences, in a natural outdoor setting, where one feels a special closeness to God as Creator.”
The Camp was founded in 1948 by Monsignor George W. Cummings, and over the past six decades has served tens of thousands of kids, many that are 2nd and 3rd generation campers. That says a lot. So in order to find out more, I sat down with Lindsey and grilled her on what it really meant to be a Good Counsel Camper, and how it’s changed her life.
Damian Hanley: Hi there! So tell me, at this “Good Counsel” Camp, do you get good counsel?
Lindsey Gregory: Haha! Yes, definitely.
DH: Alright, so tell me about how it’s run and the whole crux of its mission.
LG: They have 1 & 2-week sessions. There’s about 12 cabins and there are NO parents. It’s just the kids and the counselors. It’s great!
DH: So it was started by a priest. Is it a distinctively Catholic camp? I mean, do you pretty much just pray and meditate most of the day?
LG: Hah! No, we go to Mass first thing in the morning every day, and then during the day we do our activities. We have meals throughout the day and then at the end of the day we have what they call “Chapel Talk”. And Chapel Talk is when one of the counselors gives a speech about something that’s important to them.
DH: Oh neat! So tell me about a Chapel Talk that really touched you, or you thought was extraordinarily profound.
LG: Well most of the counselors just use one of the virtues and speak on that, but when I did mine, I talked about my trip to Panama. I spoke about the importance of helping others.
DH: Why is that important? Can’t they help themselves?
LG: Yes, (haha), but I mean, the idea is that you don’t have to go to another country to help other people. It could be someone in the bunk next to you in your cabin. It’s important just to reach out.
DH: So, you mentioned activities. What types of activities do you do, and which one is your fave?
LG: We do a ton of different things, but by far my favorite is archery.
DH: So you wander the woods and shoot deer?
LG: No! We just set up giant bales of hay and put targets on them. We have a ton of bows. The kids really love it.
DH: Alright, what else do you do?
LG: Well, there’s a swimming pool, so we’ll go swimming. Sometimes we go in the lake, but a lot of times the water’s too gross. We have boats, and canoes, so the kids learn how to do that.
DH: Okay, so if you were trying to convince a parent to send their kid to Good Counsel, what would you tell them? And why is it important for kids to get away and be social like this?
LG: I think for a lot of kids, it’s a new experience to be outside for a couple weeks with no air conditioning or cell phones. It’s a break from the electronic world.
DH: Yeah, you don’t see that a lot any more with kids – you know, them, outside. You mentioned “no air conditioning”. It’s a summer camp… I mean, what’s the body odor like on any given day?
LG: Haha! We shower at night – we don’t really have a choice. It’s the rule.
DH: I bet it is. Tell me about the nature of your friendships at the Camp.
LG: Well, I work there now, and I currently work with a girl I’ve been coming here with since I started (10 years ago). We work in the kitchen together. One of my best friends, who now goes to UF, we met my first year as an employee here, and we’ve been best friends ever since. Even with your counselors – you make such good friends here because the entire time is spent just hanging out and having fun.
DH: Well that sounds magical. We’ll try to promote this camp for you so you can keep your job. Thanks for sitting down with me and good luck in school this year!
LG: Hah! That would be great. Thank you.
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