Counseling at a church camp is something I dreamed of doing as an elementary school kid. As an 8 to 10-year-old, I remember my counselors always being patient and kind. I really admired the way they looked after me and my fellow campers. They were usually fun guys to be around. They didn’t care if we were 10 years younger, they wanted to get to know us. They went out of their way to make sure we were having fun and enjoyed our short time at camp. Despite this, as I got older, I grew out of wanting to work at camp.
The summer after my freshman year at Harding, I worked long shifts at a job I hated, and I quickly became bored. I longed for interaction with my friends at school and badly wanted to be back in Searcy. I learned from my mistake and began applying for other jobs the following spring. I knew I needed a position that involved people my age and one that would keep me busy during the summer months. I soon found myself applying for the camp I grew up attending Camp Wyldewood.
School ended, summer began, and I was back in Searcy. I was very excited to hear that a few of my friends were also hired, making the initial meet-and-greets much easier and less stressful. We all went through training the week before the kids arrived in order to prepare for the weeks ahead. I knew the job would be challenging, but I did not foresee some of the obstacles I would soon overcome.
Counseling at camp is one of the hardest yet most rewarding jobs out there. Each session is different, and every cabin has a different dynamic. No camper is the same. They all have their own distinct personalities, making some very hard to forget. Some were clingy and never left my side, while others were the exact opposite and ran away the second I was not paying attention. I soon realized that I would make mistakes, and a lot of them. The whole summer was a learning experience. I had to find different ways to deal with the children I was assigned to care for. I slowly learned how to handle kids who were harder to discipline. I learned a lot of patience and a lot about myself. Some sessions were a breeze, while others were exhausting and put me on the edge of sanity.
However, I was always sad to see my campers leave when their sessions were over. Even if they gave me a hard week, they still left me with memorable and enjoyable moments.
It’s funny to see campers in the months and years after camp has ended. Seeing them try to get my attention is a joyful yet disorienting experience. They act like no time has passed and then continue about their day.
The campers gave me an unforgettable experience, but the staff helped me through each session. The other counselors were always positive and encouraging during our daily activities and they showed me how to be compassionate, yet authoritative when disciplining campers. I made some of my best friends while working and I learned a lot from their examples. My coworkers usually could tell when I was struggling and would go out of their way to make sure I knew that I was doing a good job. It was refreshing to be surrounded by a close-knit group of people who truly cared for my well-being.
Working at a camp is a humbling experience. You are put at the same level as the kids by doing exactly what they do. Camp counseling was one of the hardest jobs I have had the pleasure of working. I made some of my closest friendships there and will remember my experiences for the rest of my life.