Camp Spirituality- “We have received this world as an inheritance from past generations, but also as a loan from future generations, to whom we will have to return it!” Pope Francis
I just checked the calendar and tomorrow, March 22nd, will be my official 7th month anniversary. I have learned a great deal in these past seven months about camp and the way we do things, about myself and about others around me. I am no stranger to the outdoors, it has been a big part of my life for the past ten years or so, but learning the world of Camp Ondessonk has shown me I have a lot of growing to do.
As most of us can attest, camp is a world of its own. It has its own vibe or “spirit.” One thing that I have found that camp excels at is building a strong community of people that are willing to come back year after year, even beyond being campers and summer staff. In this industry, this is what every camp strives for, but few find in the way that Ondessonk has. For seven months now, I have been trying to dissect this and figure out what we do to this atmosphere that people are drawn to their entire lives. I would love to be able to share our successes with other camps, because I believe everyone should have an opportunity to have a place as amazing as Ondessonk!
My efforts have been in vain for the most part. But I have noticed this, we are connected in a very powerful way to nature. Now that seems like a “no duh” statement. It’s camp, of course it is connected to nature. But we do things a little different. Maybe it is the fact that there is no electricity, or running water at the units. It could be that we have an entire activity area devoted to nature. Or perhaps the ridiculously long walks from the units to the dining hall that take place through nature. It is most likely a mix of many things. But I do know that when we live, work, eat and breath in nature, which we do here at Ondessonk, we begin to develop a very strong bond with the natural world around us. It is a bond that pierces straight through to our core, engages us in some primal way that our society seems to have forgotten. I do not believe this is an accident. This is a place that our experiences become raw and powerful. For many, this is where the presence of God can scarcely be denied. I do not believe this is a mistake. I believe this is what God intended for us. Nature is a way to break down our barriers, whether through intense struggle, or simply by the awe and beauty around us, and allow us to experience God the way he created us. This in turn, brings a deep appreciation for our experiences and the driving thirst for more. This, I believe, is one of the largest reasons people have a special attraction to Camp Ondessonk. We do all we can to live, work and play in the natural world around us and we want to share that experience with all we come in contact with, especially the younger generation. All of us here recognize the need for this beautiful, primal and raw world to be preserved. If we do not, there will be future generations who may never know the thrill of starting a fire on their own, the peace of a silent reflection next to a waterfall, or serene sounds of the wind whispering through the treetops. I hope and pray that we as a community continue to do what we do so well! Connect people with nature and faith!
By Tom Gattuso