The Power of Making Friends at Summer CampNovember 6, 2014
The Power of Making Friends at Summer Camp
Camps Kenwood and Evergreen is a pretty powerful community to belong to. In this age of social media I regularly see reunions of people who grew up or worked at our camp who have been friends for decades. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count all of the marriages that are a result of meeting on our campus in NH. I also regularly see new friendships forming at events like this past weekend’s party for new and veteran campers. Our campers, staff, parents and alumni know that they are simultaneously members of our larger Camp K&E family, while also belonging to either the Camp Kenwood Brotherhood or the Camp Evergreen Sisterhood. While I am reminded of this almost every day, I recently experienced an example that will stick with me for some time.
Each year, at the end of the summer, I have the opportunity to compose a letter to our community in our yearbook called The Scroll. In writing it I employ a literary device in that my note is actually a letter to guy named Gordon Novod. Gordon is a former camper and counselor, and was my best friend when I was a camper at Kenwood and Evergreen. He’s now a very successful bankruptcy attorney in New York City with a very happy family. Each year, I have a conversation with him on paper in which I write about the great moments of the summer that he missed, the amazing personalities at Camp that summer, and about how powerful and meaningful it is for me as one of the leaders of this overnight camp community.
I know that every year the campers pour through this letter on their ride home from NH. And each year I field their questions “so, is this guy Gordon a real person” and “why do you still write to him every year?” My response is always that yes, he is very much a real person, and I write to him because even though I remain madly in love with Kenwood and Evergreen, a piece of me is still missing when he’s not around. Camp friends are forever.
Last Saturday my wife and I were fortunate to be invited to one of our camper’s bar mitzvahs in NYC. Towards the end of the service, as the rabbi read off the names of congregants in mourning she mentioned a name, followed by “father of Gordon Novod”. Immediately the heads of the 7 campers huddled together in one pew whipped around to look at me. They each gave me a look that said “is that the Gordon?!” and I nodded my head up and down to confirm that it was. After the service they came running up to me, beyond excited that they had made this connection.
As we discussed the connection that they had just made I also shared with them the sad news about his father’s recent passing. Deena and I shared with the boys that his father had once been the summer doctor at Kenwood and Evergreen, and that Gordon’s mother and sister had also been Evergreen campers and counselors.
In that moment I reminded the campers that this is part of what makes the Kenwood and Evergreen community so special and meaningful. Membership in this community is life-long, even when you are long past the age of being a camper or counselor. And for all of his success and incredible life experiences, Gordon began as a 9-year old boy who lived in The Compound, just like they did.
It is in human nature to want to belong. Belonging brings with it friendship, understanding and can even help give us a sense of purpose. I love that our summer camp in NH has been creating a true sense of belonging and brotherhood or sisterhood since 1930. I love how meaningful it is for so many.