St. Therese of Lisieux once said that she felt like a grain of sand compared to a tall, mighty mountain when she compared herself with the saints of the Church. She often lamented her smallness, fearing that because she could not do great things she would never become a saint. So she decided to focus on the little things she could do each and every day to better serve the Lord.
Now three years ago, when I was on staff, I felt the tangibility of my service for the five weeks. I developed personal relationships with campers and fellow staff members and felt as I was truly bringing those around me closer to God. But these past three years, as director, that service has felt less tangible and somehow less like a service. It had become a job.
With camp being my job rather than a volunteer position, the opportunities to serve seemed so small. There was little opportunity to spend time with campers, I rarely had one-on-one's with staff because they wanted to speak with me. But this summer was a different one. Maybe it is because I have the experience and wisdom to feel as if I am serving again. Or maybe it is my acceptance of the small things, rather than the large.
Our service does not have to large, it does not have to be great. It merely has to be service, whether counseling a group of fifteen campers or having a one-on-one to provide advice to a teen struggling with a high school problem, the task is important. Whether seen or unseen, recognized or unnoticed, what we do each and every day contributes to journey to sainthood. After all, on its own, one grain of sand is unremarkable, but the entire shoreline is beautiful to behold.
This week, our second to last week at camp we had a unique experience, the DDF (Diocesan Development Fund) visited camp to interview campers, shoot some shots of the campers at camp, and Bishop Rice's visit to camp.
I was incredibly moved by the answers and memories that the campers and staff members shared about camp and why it was special to them. Campers shared about what camp meant to them. One staff member shared how because of camp, his sister was motivated to start up a youth group at their home parish. Another camper shared how at his first year of camp, he was nervous and prepared to be homesick and instead, had the "funnest week of his life". Camp is now his favorite place in the world. Another staff member admitted that camp changed her for the better. Her heartfelt words about camp and how camp helped her for the better touched my heart; she wouldn't be who she is today without camp. Not without me or without another specific aspect of camp, but without camp.
My favorite question was, "What is camp in one word?"
The answers varied from loving, God-filled, and my personal favorite, family. Camp isn't a physical place, it isn't a specific group of people; it is an attitude, a hope, a belief, and a conscious intention to make the week the best it can be. The camp family, the decision to see one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, and the effort to love one another as we come.
Here's my answer: Camp in one word is joy. Joy to be serving others, joy at the happiness people find there, joy in watching little 5th graders grow into incredible staff members, joy even when you don't feel entirely joyful. The funny thing about joy is that joy never ceases, it sits there, just under the surface, ready to bubble up like a spring. Because joy is Jesus, Others, and then You.
The interviews and experiences that came with this particular week affirmed and reassured me that camp is what I hope it is. That camp has moved in the direction I had envisioned three years ago when I was offered the position. Our camp has become a more camper-focused, more Godly and prayerful, and more heartfelt camp, thanks to the staff the has trusted me to guide them towards those goals.