When things first started to get serious with my now husband, we were having a discussion about what we wanted for our eventual children.  The first thing that came out of my mouth was “I want to be able to send my kids to sleep away camp”!  I’ve always known how formative summers at Beber were for me- I just didn’t know it was to this extent!

When I think of why camp was one of the most unbelievable gifts that my parents gave me, it all boils down to these four things:

  • A chance to try anything, without the need to be good at it

I was chosen last for Red Rover teams during school recess on several occasions.  For those who don’t remember, it’s a game where you make as impenetrable of a chain as possible by holding your friends’ hands.  You then call someone over from the other line of kids to try to break through your chain of arms.   Meaningless?  Yes.  Did it kind of hurt?  Yes.  Point is, even though I know the game was silly, I still remember that feeling of getting chosen last because I wasn’t particularly strong or athletic.

Camp was different.  I got to try everything from archery to wall climbing to windsurfing and was cheered on for trying.  Period.  It didn’t matter whether I was good at it or not- all that mattered was that I gave it a shot.

  • Exposure to the great outdoors

The time my family spent outside was at the pool, in our backyard, and at the playground.  We weren’t a family that camped out or hiked.  Summer camp was my first exposure to great outdoors and it was awesome.  The near sound of silence sailing on the lake before most of the world woke up, the jaw dropping beauty of watching the sun rise, the cool crisp air that smelled of pine leaves.  Absolute heaven.  At camp I learned that my happy place had very little to do with things; for me, it was found in the middle of a bunch of trees.  It still is.

  • The opportunity to dip my toes into independence

It was at camp that I first got outside of my comfort zone and was forced to meet new people.  People from different cities and countries, people with different accents, people with different life experiences.  At first it was uncomfortable but that magic thing happened that only happens at camp.  Since we literally spent 24 hours a day within a few feet of each other, we became a family of sorts in almost no time.  I spent 4 weeks away from my parents and everything I knew and I survived!  This gave me the confidence to know I could do it again and again and again.  And I have.  Each time I’ve been able to land on my feet and start anew.

  • A deeper connection to my spirituality

Since my mom was Bat Mitzvah’ed as an adult, my brothers and I joined her at synagogue every Saturday while she was preparing.  I didn’t mind going to synagogue at all.  We always got to get bagels first and I liked chatting with my friends in the pews.  I knew the tunes of the prayers and the sweets after the service didn’t hurt either.

Experiencing Judaism at camp, though, was an entirely different thing.  Rather than learning from books like we did in Hebrew school, we learned through experiencing.  We joyously sang prayers before and after every meal.  We did spirited Israeli dancing on the basketball courts after the sun went down.  We laughed as we watched our favorite counselors do the Saturday Torah Live puppet shows.   This was different.  At camp, we participated in our culture in a way that felt fun and real and ours.

Now I’m all grown up (well, sort of anyway) with children of my own.  I live in San Francisco and have my own life coaching business.  I get to make my mark by helping curious life long learning adults find their own sense of connection through their careers and relationships.  My feeling remains the same as it did 10 years ago- I still want to send my children to summer camp.  Even all these years later the gifts from camp keep on giving.   I can’t wait to make it possible for them to experience their own gifts from camp.