In the Camp of Friendship



My ten-year old nephew left for camp last weekend. He and his camp buddies rode a bus to the middle of Florida, where they're spending a week in a cabin without air conditioning. They’ll be swimming, tubing, kayaking and canoeing. Which will hopefully help them forget how hot and humid it is. Because it sounds a little miserable to me.

I went to camp, too, the summer I was ten. I loved reading stories of girls who went to camp and learned to canoe and swim, where they made forever-friends. But I still wasn't really sure I wanted to go. 

My ten-year-old gal pals convinced me it was fun and special and told me we would all stay in the same cabin. They told me it wouldn't be the same without me. I felt included. 

So I rode a bus to camp in the middle of Pennsylvania (where it didn't matter if the cabins were air conditioned) and I made memories that have lasted a lifetime. I went hiking and swimming and roasted marshmallows. It was at camp where I knew no fear and discovered the thrill of jumping off the high dive into the deep end of the camp’s big swimming pool. 



During my camp days, all the girls were my friends. But in just a few years, the cheerleaders {I wasn’t one} and the bookworms {that was me} would go our separate ways. I would long to be included back into that circle of friends. 

The same girls I went to camp with seemed so busy with boys and sports and didn't seem to notice me. I craved kindred-spirit kind of friendships.

And I still do today. I much prefer deep friendships over surface acquaintances. Friendships full of shared experiences, delightful memories and heart-to-heart conversations. 

These friendships are built intentionally over time with considerable care and steadfast purpose. But I’ve found that creating meaningful friendships can happen in ways I wouldn’t expect. 



The website (in)courage has created community groups where friendships are made on purpose. Their dream was to establish a place for women to meaningfully connect in small online communities. 

For the second time this year, I’m co-leading an (in)couragers group on Facebook for professional women called (in)couraging Vocations. 

It’s where we share our workplace challenges and our personal stories, forming friendships across time zones and beyond pinpoints on a map.

We kick off our sessions with my co-leader Sara’s marvelous idea of a get-to-know-you party right in our group, posting questions and answers for an hour to get the conversation started.



I'm surprised to discover that every one in our group feels like a kindred spirit to me as we share tiny snippets and pieces of our stories. 

I learned that Sara lives in a hundred-year-old house and loves history as much as I do.

I found that another gal visited my hometown of Pittsburgh recently and {as it charmingly does for most people} found it didn’t match her images of an unpleasant city at all. 

I learned that a new friend and I share the same idea of a blissful day that includes baking something delicious and a trip to the library, getting lost in the stacks of books.

I even risked exclusion from the group when I confessed that I was the only one in the group {and apparently the world} who hasn’t seen the movie “Frozen.” (And I even bravely divulged that I had no intention of seeing it!) 

I was amazed how one hour and 159 comments later, we all felt like old friends. 

And just like dear sisters and friends, we pledged to pray for each other, encourage each other through our challenges, and share the beautiful things God is doing in our lives.



I still cherish the memories of my camp friendships and savor my real-life friends, but I know making friendships online is possible too. It just feels a little different. But still as energizing to my soul as a cool breeze on a hot summer day.

Before my nephew left for camp, he packed his bug-repelling cuffs, along with towels and washcloths he was instructed by my sister to be sure to throw away at the end of the week and not bring home. 

I asked him if he minded that there wouldn’t be air conditioning at this camp in the middle of Florida, in the middle of June. 

“Auntie,” he said as politely as possible. “This is CAMP, not a luxury resort.”

I can’t wait to hear about the muggy cabins and the pesky mosquitos. But most of all, I can’t wait to hear all about the memories he made with his camp buddies. 

That he won’t realize until years later that he’ll remember for a lifetime.


My sweet nephew Nate (center) and his camp buddies.

I'm linked up over at (in)courage today as we share about friendship on purpose. Click the image to read more stories!



Comments

  1. Love, love the camp book photos! So glad kids are still excited about going to camp! Thanks for sharing your camp experience!!

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    Replies
    1. I love the old camp books too! I snap them up at vintage shops when I see them.

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  2. Such sweet pictures and memories. And such beautiful words about friendship. We are designed to be in community...hence the joy that it brings. Thanks for sharing your gift of words.

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    1. Karen,
      Thank you so much for your encouraging words and yes! We are designed for community . . . thank you so much for stopping by!

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  3. How fun! I am sure he is having a blast!! I have wonderful memories of summer camp!

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    1. Brittany,
      Can't wait to welcome him home and hear all about it! And I'd like to hear about your summer camp memories, too!

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  4. Beautiful post, Valerie. I was a loyal camp kid as well, I went many summers to a Girl Scout camp. So glad to recreate camp friendships at (in)courage with you!

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    1. Sara,
      LOVE co-leading with you! Recreating camp friendships -- love that imagery for our group! :)

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  5. I worked at a Bible camp for seven summers! Some of my dear friends are from those summers. I'm excited that in my new community my path is crossing with friends I met at camp but had lost touch with! Loved this post!

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    1. Tara,
      Reconnecting with old friends is one of life's sweetest surprises, isn't it? Thanks so much for reading and stopping by!

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  6. I loved reading the stories of friendships forming in unexpected ways and remembering my camp days. Wonderful post!
    Christy

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    1. Christy,
      I think camp days memories seem so fond because of the joy of childhood -- love that!

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