Celebrating a Good Life
It’s been 46 years since his death, but the work of longtime Camp Mishawaka counselor, David Slocum (Sloc) still resonates today. I never met Sloc, but have spent many hours around the memorial that overlooks Lake Pokegama built in his honor. Etched on the plaque, at the four points of the compass are the words:
Altruism, Compassion, Intelligence and Benevolence.
In between these ideals are:
Versatility, Stability, Comfort and Humor.
And in the center is:
I have sat around this memorial hundreds of times, even studied the words and contemplated what they mean in the Camp setting. I may have heard the story behind them (I think I had) but not until Sloc’s brother, Tom shared Cap’s obituary for David did they really make an impression. Sloc suffered from a variety of illness and endured many surgeries during his association with Mishawaka. It was during his absence from Camp for one of these operations that “his boys”- the CIT’s of 1967 created this shield as a tribute. Sloc and Cap discovered in on the wall of the CIT cabin after the season had ended.
That was the description of their counselor after the close association of 24 hours per day, under the same roof, for a full summer, the evaluation of 16 year-old boys with no axe to grind and only the truth to tell. I wonder how many of us could stand that test and come out with such a tribute.
As the legend goes, Sloc had an uncanny ability to connect with the camper who was on the periphery. Cap says, “Sloc had the habit of looking away from the center of activity, where most of us would focus our attention, to hunt up the boy who was missing or on the edge or not entering into the group. Maybe the boy was homesick, or upset, or at odds with his peers- and that boy-, forgotten or overlooked by others, became the center of Sloc’s attention.” Believe it or not, even in this day and age when it seems so many are pointing the spotlight, or iphone at themselves, this type of camper still exists. (Perhaps even because so many seem adept at self-promotion.)
Though we may never master the techniques and approach that Sloc had perfected, I’d like to think that because of him we are aware of our responsibility to these children and our calling to offer our best selves to most vulnerable among us is David Slocum’s lasting legacy at Camp Mishawaka.