This past June, I returned to Kahdalea as a camp mom and had been there one week when I heard these words from Proverbs 8 proclaimed during the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity:
When the Lord […] made firm the skies above,
when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth; […]
then was I beside him as his craftsman,
and I was his delight day by day,
playing before him all the while,
playing on the surface of his earth;
and I found delight in the human race.
The image struck me as if I had heard it for the first time—the Wisdom of God, or the Son, playing on the surface of the earth in the presence of the Father; the Father, delighting in the Son; and the Son, delighting in us, his creation.
The passage resonated with me anew because I had been witness, in a certain way, to that very scene for the last seven days, that of delighting in another and of playing on the surface of the earth. Too often, it seems, I have focused on the acceptance of suffering as the primary way in which to imitate Christ and have neglected that first action of the Trinity—one of playful delight in creation. Such joyful innocence is acceptable in toddlers, but gravity and a small dose of cynicism seem to follow shortly after. Yet, as I watched the counselors and campers before me, I was reminded of why I feel God’s presence so unmistakably when at camp: people play here. Indeed, perhaps the best entertainment I had during my three-week stay was watching a race to restock toilet paper on the storage shelf—no offense, of course, to all the talented acting which I witnessed in skits, but as a mom, timely and cheerfully-done chores are a sight of beauty beyond compare.
Twenty years ago, as a counselor, I had focused on playing on the rocks, in the streams, and along the trails, but now, no longer on a tripping staff, what struck me most during my time at camp was the playful singing. Yes, that singing which once mildly annoyed me as a counselor, I now saw as evidence of young people delighting in life. The singing, I am convinced, has multiplied in my years away. There are still the typical camp songs about flirtatious cider-sipping and co-ed canoeing, the ones celebrating Kahda-ladies, the Nat King Cole serenade for the lucky gents, and the blessings reverently offered to the theme music of Jaws and Indiana Jones, but even more songs have been added to the daily repertoire. All of camp now clamors for information about mealtime leftovers not to be merely proclaimed for all to hear, but to be sung for our amusement. A lost sweatshirt? Rap about it, the rabble demand. A request for a counselor to come to the office? The foreboding “To the Gallows” chant begins. A rain shower mid-meal? Out to the deck they go for a round of “Singing in the Rain.” The mention of a party of any sort? The new anticipatory “P-A-R-T-Y” song rouses the spirits. And prepping for Capture the Flag? “Little Red Wagon” taunts the opposing blue.
These songs seem to me to be a celebration of daily camp life, regular lyrical affirmations that it is good to be here, that seemingly mundane camp life is never, in fact, mundane. But my favorite new additions were, by far, the personalized songs composed for individual members of the community. To introduce announcements, the old announcement song alone does not suffice; all of camp now sings tunes with modified lyrics to express affection for each particular Program Director and Assistant PD. No less than four songs were composed for Grace, a beloved APD. The trend has taken off—Stephen, the male nurse, a.k.a. the murse, has a particularly humorous chant in his honor; JC moms merit another; counselor Mary Lang is given tribute with the “Imperial March”; other counselors acquire songs from the ever prolific community as the session progresses. Does all this singing help trips leave more promptly or contribute to the efficiency and orderliness of camp? Hardly. They might even impede such objectives were camp to hold such, but I do see the creative life of the Trinity at play in them, at the exuberant young voices raised in delight and affection for one another and for the role each individual holds in her place here. Camp life reminds me that I don’t need a special occasion to raise my voice in song, I simply need to run out of dinner rolls.