The Gift of Camp

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, August 4, 2019

By: Amelia McDaniel

I did not grow up going to summer camp. As an only child who lived in a small town where I was free to roam, play in creeks, go to the library, and explore part of Teddy Roosevelt’s taxidermy collection at the local college, what more was needed?

So, I did not know what to expect as I headed up to Shrine Mont to be a chaplain for St. Elizabeth’s Camp, a camp for people aged 14 – 26 years who have mild to moderate disabilities. Shrine Mont was buzzing with hundreds of kids and counselors enjoying this beautiful hidden gem. Some campers were there for music and drama, others to hike and adventure through the mountains, and some for a more traditional camp experience.

During the week at St. Elizabeth’s, we celebrated Christmas in July. Each day during Chaplain’s Time, we talked about gifts, not the kind we buy and wrap, but the kind we share from the heart. We read the old O’Henry story, The Gift of the Magi, and the campers and counselors identified their own gifts, the gifts of others, and the gifts they would like to work on sharing with others.

On our last day, we imagined what it would have been like to be the Magi and given baby Jesus a gift. One camper said, “I would give him the gift of camp.” Another camper asked, “You mean Jesus would be able to go to the pool with us?” As we talked about what it would look like for a young Jesus to be at camp, I could see the many ways He was already truly there. I watched campers and counselors at all the camps get so filled up. There was so much laughter and love shared. So many hugs and help given. Differences in abilities, in schooling, in home life—none of that was evident. There were just a bunch of great, sweaty, and happy kids enjoying each other’s presence; kids encouraging one another, believing in each other, and just having fun together. The Gift of Camp.

I hope when next summer rolls around, many of our families will consider spending time at Shrine Mont. It is a gift we have right here in our Diocese that can’t be wrapped up and put under a tree, but most certainly can be given and shared.