I just finished my second-to-last day of being a camp counselor. It’s been a long and exhausting journey, and I’m relieved to be at the end of it. I’m satisfied now, feeling like I’m on the road to accomplishing what I wanted: having a healthy and opening influence in the people’s lives… and today was the culmination of all of that work with the kids at camp.

Every Friday we have an event called “All Camp” that involves all of the campers and counselors in the entire camp. Each week, a team of 3-5 counselors are responsible for planning it, making it loosely related to the theme for the week. Past themes have been things like “Into the Wild,” “Musical Mayhem,” “Stars and Stripes” (for the 4th of July week), and “Disco Fever.” This week’s theme was “Express Yourself,” and I was on the committee for planning it. I arranged for several of my friends from Twin Oaks and Shannon Farm (another nearby community) to come out and teach juggling, poi, and “advanced hula hooping” to the older kids, and then perform for the entire camp. They came, they taught, they performed, and the camp was enthralled.

What I love about today’s event is that the kids got to experience “alternative” type people in their own comfortable environment. It was a mixture of the new and the normal, which I think helps folks open themselves more to new experiences. The kids got to work with and learn from talented, beautiful, powerful women who didn’t wear makeup or shave their armpits. No one made a big deal about it, it was just a subtle exposure to people doing things differently, and it so happens that these different people are also very very cool and taught the kids some very cool things.

The metaphor in my mind is that all summer I’ve been building a bridge between the camp culture and the culture of places like Twin Oaks where collaboration, personal responsibility, communication, and creativity are of primary importance. At camp, hierarchy and the need for control seem to take precedence over most other things. Today the kids got a chance to choose their own activities, take responsibility for themselves (they left their assigned groups and counselors that they’ve been with all week), and challenge themselves in new creative endeavors.

The camp directors were worried about there not being enough control of the groups, worried about the potential for chaos. I was so frustrated yesterday when we turned in our All Camp plan, and one of the directors started telling me all of her concerns. I wanted to tell her, “Just trust the kids — give them the opportunity to be resonsible and they will be! When you expect them to act up, they will, because you don’t give them the chance to take responsibility for themselves.” Instead, I said “I understand your concerns… I’ll do what I can.” After All Camp ended today, I felt totally validated (though of course, my boss didn’t say any kind of congratulations — I hate having a boss! It’s such a weird power dynamic…)

Ah, back to the bridge metaphor. l feel like I’ve been building this bridge all summer, sharing myself and my ideas with the other counselors and the kids. Not being overtly “different”, just authentic in who I am. (Except for last night at the end-of-summer staff dinner, when the three progressive women counselors ended up sitting with the most conservative male counselor on staff — I was more overt and passionate about my beliefs than I’ve been in awhile!). So, the bridge — building slowly, step by step, and today I opened the bridge, and the kids and staff got to take a peek into this other culture by experiencing more than me as an individual… by experiencing and observing some of the culture itself. Multiple people communicating deeply, loving openly (lots of hugs), and having confidence in their natural bodies. Seeds have now been planted…

And next week, some of the high school campers are going on a field trip to Twin Oaks… crossing the bridge.