Sunday, July 21, 2013

Church Camp is SO GOOD

Church camp time has arrived, signaling the nearing of the end of summer.  Matthew was at La Foret last week, and today Angela, Olesya, Kenny and Josh all left.  We were so grateful that our pastor brought Matt home as she was there for a week of Contemplative Camp, and I am grateful to Dominick for doing the "Drop Off Run", giving me a week off before I head over for the pick up next weekend.

When Matthew arrived home, he was exhausted and almost non-communicative.  He had been awake until 3:00 AM the night before, then up early to get packed to leave camp yesterday.  He was grumpy, tired, hot...and very much still in the La Foret world, not quite ready to return.

He started to revive a little during dinner, and as he came back to himself he laughed more than we have seen him laugh in a long time.  He talked about how he was intimidated at first by the much older kids, and then as we fleshed that out we realized that mostly it was the difference between Big City kids and Country Boys from Montrose.  He had us all laughing as he compared it by saying, "In Montrose, the cool dudes wear cowboy boots and compete in the rodeo and walk like they ride horses all the time.  In the Big City the cool dudes have expensive clothes and shoes, and walk like gangsters."  While he admitted there was a lot of difference in experience...and age...between himself and many of the others, he said everyone was very open and accepting of each other.  It was clear, though, that there were some cultural differences, which is something we don't often think about in rural versus urban situations.  I love the chance he and the other kids all have to recognize those difference, and yet still come out of the week saying, "They were a great bunch, even if we were different."

It seemed he felt on a deeper level, and for the first time, that he had found his "tribe" and recognized it.  He spoke of what wonderful, enlightening, and intelligent conversations were held in the evenings about everything from immigration to gay rights to poverty.  He said that the kids in his cabin were all so bright and, more importantly, willing to listen to other perspectives respectfully...and even change their minds if they were persuaded by the logic of the presenter's point of view.  I have never heard Matthew talk about having been with a group of kids who felt like home in quite this way, and I think part of it is that he tends to lean on the mature side.  This time he was with his peers, and it turns out that like his mom at that age, his true peers are a few years older than he is. Not surprising at all.   We talked about how those sorts of conversations were an extension of what we do at home all the time, and how many kids never have that opportunity at home and only at camp.  It seemed it was just nice for him to be around kids who were more progressive in their thinking, who were able to formulate ideas for themselves rather than parrot their parents' beliefs, which is often what we run into in our neck of the world as we are sadly is lacking in diversity in many ways for kids growing up here.

What he spoke of with great interest and awe of was the small group of campers and counselors from Venezuela who joined their camp this year.  He shared how they danced for the talent show, the girls with their dresses swirling around them.  This group added so much to the camp experience, and Matt said he wished he had taken Spanish rather than German, and that our less outgoing kid even made several attempts to try and speak with them.  He said he was more comfortable with those without a common language and using an interpreter due to all the times we have adopted and been in the same situation, and he was anxious to at least try and connect with them.  As he recited their names, I could tell that they made a big impact on him.

As dinner ended and the night wore on, we all moved to the couch to sit and continue visiting while eating homemade ice cream.  We laughed over everything as Matthew mimicked the way some of the kids talked or shared their jokes.  He was such a contrast from the kid who walked in the door, almost in a stupor.  Matthew always has a hard time talking about things that affect him.  It has to be gently pulled out of him with pointed questions first, then gradually broader questions.  Once he started though, and he came out of the daze, he talked non-stop, a sure sign for him that great things happened at camp.

What touched me most though was how moved he was by the spirituality of this past week, something he rarely ever talks about despite us going to church regularly and talking about such things around the dinner table often.  He said the week was about "presence" and being present in the moment.  We all talked about how kids and adults alike have no idea how to do that well.  I explained that one reason I absolutely refuse to worry about answering the phone or a text the moment it is sent is because it is my one rebellion against the norm.  If I am talking with someone, I rarely will answer the phone...and yes, that means if I am in conversation with my children or husband.  I explained that everyone teases me about it, but that I feel it is more important not to be ruled by technology, and to be very present and in the moment for the person in front of me.  We talked about how some people don't understand that about us homeschooling, and that we are working and not available for chatting, mainly because I want to protect that time as Sacred Learning Time and have good boundaries around it.

The conversation turned to learning how to put boundaries around our sacred time, and that it can be hard to do that but we miss out on so much.  The kids all chimed in with how important our family time is, and how few families make it for themselves.  One reason Angela doesn't want to compete in more sports is because she loves her family time, even if we are doing nothing more than watching a movie together.

Perhaps the best thing to come from camp for Matt was that it was the first year he came away having made a friend he actually wants to keep in contact with.  He described his new friend as being a great storyteller, very outgoing, and super smart.  He also talked about wanting to attend our denomination's national youth event next year, which pleased me to no end, not because I care much if he or any of the kids get greatly involved in our denomination, but because he will have another opportunity to be with youth who are like him.  It is the first time he has ever expressed any interest in such a thing even though I've brought it up before, and I think it can only help him grow, not only in his faith, but in confidence in who he is.

So, Round 1 at camp was incredibly successful!  Round two will hopefully be just as much so, and I can not wait to hear the stories, hear the laughter, and listen to the new songs that come home with the other kids!

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