I’m working at a camp this summer like many summers before. At camp you learn how to be flexible. With 100-200+ kids and 50+ staff every week, things can get pretty crazy. If you aren’t flexible you get pretty unhappy pretty quick. This past weekend exemplified that.
Last friday it pushed 100 degrees all day. If you are sitting in an office all day, no big deal. If you are running around doing various activities with large groups of children it can get a bit crazy. That evening it started to look a bit overcast. I could tell after all the heat we would be getting a storm. Storms at camp can be intense but usually fine. Some water issues because of downpours was the worst I’ve seen. This storm was different.
As bright lightning flashed repeatedly all over the sky, huge gusts of winds started to pick up. These were as heavy as they were frequent. I walked outside and giant specks of dust from the road flew into my eyes. After driving down the hill I watched large plastic chairs blow away in front of a building. A huge branch fell right in front of a cabin with campers in it. A decent downpour joined in for good measure. The end result was that everyone was fine but the power was out.
You might think it would be easy enough to hunker down and just wait out a power loss. But this weekend we all learned how important power is to running our camp. We have walk-in refrigerators full of food for meals. We have wells that require pumps to be filled and get water to all our cabins. Swimming in the pool quickly became a no go because it requires working pumps to regulate the chemicals to clean it. Pretty much all our paperwork and communications with the outside world requires power and the internet to access and print. Any outage longer than a few hours becomes problematic. We had no power for almost two days.
In this time no one took showers as we tried to conserve water. Our staff worked tirelessly, moving generators around to pump just enough water so toilets would keep running. Our kitchen staff cooked meals for a full camp in a dark kitchen. We gave out a ridiculous amount of free ice cream to campers and staff before it melted. We decided we could not start our new week of camp on Sunday so we told parents and kids to stay home and await word about our power. We saw off our 1st week campers and then prayed power would come back soon. One prediction was it would not come back for 2 or more days.
Lunchtime on Sunday the family of a staff member arrived from Michigan. They had heard about our struggles and had brought multiple brand-new high quality generators. Their rationale was we should never have to tell campers to stay home. Getting them set up and going we began to feel showers might be possible that evening. And then, around 5pm on Sunday afternoon, the power came back on.
Camp staff went into overdrive, calling parents to say camp was back on. After a crazy few days, we had opening ceremonies a day late for a bit more than a 100 campers. On Monday morning I found time to take my first shower since Thursday morning.
It’s a crazy few days to recollect, different than any I have ever experienced at camp. One of the positive things was seeing little girls pray and sing together in their cabins as the storm was just ending to comfort one another. Another was seeing kids having so much fun, pretty much oblivious to the chaos some of our staff was working so hard to avoid. A group of girl campers put on a skit during our chapel time lampooning camp and myself. Electricity didn’t matter, they giggled throughout and were so excited to show off what they had practiced.
Lastly, one thing struck me as I thought about the past few days. At no point did I ever think, “I wish I was somewhere else.” I remember sitting in a dark stuffy dining hall, feeling the gunk and grime of being outdoors sink ever deeper into my skin, not knowing when normalcy would be restored. Even when I felt pretty terrible I was also, on some subconscious level, also deeply content. I suppose that is what camp is to me. Regardless of the craziness, the tiredness, the busyness of everything, I cannot think of another place I would want to be more. Camp is fun, it is exciting and it matters and no amount of electricity or showers can change that.