I missed the closing speaker at a recent camping conference – in part because the rumor was that it was going to be very participatory and I was feeling less than excited about that, and in part because if I did attend, I would be pushing it to make my flight. But I did buy Priya Parker’s book, The Art of Gathering – How We Meet and Why it Matters, and as I started reading it while waiting for my flight to board (I would have had plenty of time to attend the session, as it turned out), I was struck by the idea that a cabin group is really a gathering – everyday.
Each session kids from diverse locations and backgrounds come together to form a unit – a gathering within the community – under the guidance of their host, the counselor. I started to replace the word “guest” in Parker’s book with “camper” as I read on, and a lot of it rings true. Any good gathering, Parker states, creates a temporary alternate world – not unlike a Camp cabin group that exists for a defined session. To do this, a good host, and a good counselor, must follow some simple rules:
- Don’t be a “chill” host – our campers need boundaries, instruction, involvement and assurance.
- Protect your campers – create a physically and emotionally safe space.
- Equalize your campers – be intentional about leveling the playing field. It’s a collaborative effort for all.
- Connect your campers – tie people together with common interests and experiences. Help everyone find commonality.
We work with our staff to do just this, and more.
I can recall the names of most of my cabin mates from my time as a camper. I learned a lot from many, and still count a number of them among my best friends. I also met some who I knew I would never be friends with, but it didn’t stop me from being friendly. I believe these experiences helped me to navigate other group living experiences, especially as a college freshman adjusting to life with a new roommate. It may even help me the next time I find myself at a conference session that is very participatory!
We captured some of this magic this summer in two short videos – one from a group of teenage age girls, and the other from a cabin group of young boys.
With each passing day, the sun lingers a little longer in the west and we know that summer can’t be too far away and our community of campers and counselors will be gathering again.