Rituals

David Golding  |  3 min read

 

As the light emanating from my flashlight slid through the crisp darkness of my cabin, I inhaled slowly as I realized what I would be leaving the next day. I stood in the middle of the one-roomed building with my co-counselors, and released a sigh that could have extinguished even the largest of campfires. Leaving little time for interjection from the sixteen ten- to eleven- year-old campers that rested in their beds, I somberly said, “Does anyone have anything else to say?” There was silence, and the only response was the noise of the quiet, ever-attentive forest that surrounded our campgrounds. I listened but heard nothing besides the rustling of sheets and the sounds of suppressed tears. I knew these sounds well, because I, too, had once suppressed such feelings. I nodded into the darkness for nobody to see and walked outside onto the porch, exposing myself to the starry, night sky and the cool, Maine air.

I had just finished with the nightly routine called “rituals”, a time in which camper and counselor can bond. These short rituals serve as a custom, a fixed point in an otherwise hectic day at Camp Wekeela. It was the week-two mark at camp and were it not for the unfortunate reality that I had to transfer bunks due to a staffing issue, rituals would have yet again been another night filled with happiness and laughter. As I walked slowly down the faintly moonlit path outside of my bunk, I began to think back to a meaningful day of staff training.

In this memory, my eyes darted blithely around at my co-counselors. We were calmly seated in a semi-circle. The open portion was open to the iconic, Wekeela mountain and lake vista and each counselor had a slight smile etched on his or her face. Such was the ambience: idyllic. The counselor coordinator said “I want you guys each to write down your goal for the summer.” As I nonchalantly put my goal to paper, I was not considering failure, nor did I deduce that if I did not achieve my goal I would fail; I was simply assuming success, or whatever one calls it at camp. I wrote: “I want to leave an indelible mark on these campers, to be a friend and a role model, a counselor and a confidante, a memory and a reality.”

I soon approached the dark clearing before the entrance to my new home and peered up at the stars, infinite and distant. As tears began to blur them into a mix of scattered specks, thoughts of failure flitted around my head. “Must I start all over? I’ve developed such a strong relationship with these kids!” I stood there for what seemed like eons. Then I straightened up, composed myself and walked towards the door. I was inundated by light as I pushed it open to be greeted by a group of smiling faces exclaiming: “David’s here!” “I’ve heard you’re so much fun!” “Finally!”

As various bright-faced ten-year-olds latched on to my every limb, I reflected. A goal is fixed in neither time nor place. It is unique and dynamic, much like a person, and can change as such. I smiled as I shook the hands of my co-counselors and realized that a presumed failure is not an end, it is merely a disguised opportunity that one only has to open his or her eyes a bit wider to see. I had thought that because I was no longer living with my original campers, I would fail in leaving the indelible impact that I had wished for. However, I soon discovered that a superficial move couldn’t sever the life-long connections formed when eating, sleeping, playing, and dining with them. There will always be a place in my heart for the first campers I had.