by Lexi Smith.
Have you ever had an experience so amazing you were lost for words? Before I attended Camp with Wings I couldn’t have told you that I had. Well, maybe I could have, after half an hour and a good deal of racking my memory. But that’s not the point! True awesome experiences stick with you. They sit right there in your mind, they stay at the side of your everyday life waiting for their moment, the moment when you say: “Wow, yeah, that happened”.
Camp with Wings transforms my outlook; reaffirms my goals and blasts me into a new stratosphere of my life. This seems always to happen in the blink of an eye. One moment, I’m boarding a bus with 30 or so other Home Ed teens and the next, I’m back in my life, tired, happy and complete.
“Wow,” I think to myself. “So how did that happen?”
Wait, let me start at the beginning.
Camp with Wings starts every year in January and lasts a week. All the staff, junior staff and teens go off on a bus to somewhere gorgeous with cabins, a hall and a kitchen that Sue Belfitt (our amazing cook) inhabits along with her amazing kitchen hands. They cook up some of the most delicious fresh food I’ve ever tasted. The next week consists of workshops put on by us, the campers. Every camper has an opportunity to share something they love with others. This year I did jelly making, one year I did poetry. Activities are structured into blocks, before and after lunch with at least two different things happening at once so you always have a choice. There is ‘Well-being time’, so named because everyone can do whatever they need to take care of themselves, whether it be resting or attending guided relaxation or just chilling out. At night we have drama games and bush dances and talent shows.
The best thing about Camp with Wings talent shows is that they are entirely friendly, uncompetitive affairs. The first year I went to camp I was terrified at the thought of getting up in front of other people and sharing my poetry. But I saw the way everyone clapped and cheered enthusiastically every time, no matter what. It felt just like a group of good friends sharing and laughing together. So I took a chance and performed my poetry and it was actually quite an awesome experience. It’s not every day I get a group of people clapping and cheering over my words. People came up to me afterwards to tell me how much they liked it. It kind of blew my mind. Compliments? For me? People told me they wanted me to share more. I’ve done so ever since.
Things sprout at camp. Ideas blossom. Friendships bloom. There are, all of a sudden, about 30 separate people to talk to. There is space everyday to get up and do things and talk the day away. So much of what makes camp isn’t about the structured time; it’s the space between them. The chance to have that deep and meaningful conversation down by the campfire or play that huge game of Frisbee out on the field, or go up to that person you haven’t spoken to before and say, “Hey, how’s it going?” This comes to the heart of what I think camp is. It’s a place to grow. To be. To say: “Why not? Why not be that person I want to be? What do I have to be afraid of?”
The answer, for me, is always found on the last night of camp. Every year, we have an intention circle. We all start outside the hall, holding hands and singing. We close our eyes and sing, and are led inside and we sit in a circle and everyone goes round, one by one and says “This year I am going to…” And I sit there listening to all the cool things everyone else is going to do and I’m racking my brains and thinking, hey, actually, what am I going to do this year? And there’s something very powerful there, I think. It’s not what I want, or what I like, but what I do. What am I, me, with all my wondrous opportunities in life going to do with myself, starting now? And when my turn comes around and I say it out loud. It makes it real. It makes it happen.
The New Year doesn’t start until I’ve been to camp. So when I come home and I wash my clothes and bundle up the suitcase and put it away, I feel like I’ve finally started. I’m growing up, just a bit more every year. I’m more complete, more myself. I have amazing experiences now. I have them every year at Camp with Wings.