Reflections from the Shores | Bradley Leshem’s Saturday Sermon
Camp is a collection of moments — some silly and some sad, some ridiculous and some refreshing, and some poignant and profound.
Perhaps nobody has better articulated these moments than did 4th-year counselor Bradley Leshem in his Saturday-morning sermon.
Bradley, who’s lovingly known as Husky, is grateful not only for the big lessons and the lifelong friendships from his 11 years at Kawaga, but also those small moments that provide the context for everything we so value and enjoy at camp.
I hope you all enjoy and are touched by Husky’s words.
Why are you here?
Or, at this point in the summer, it might be more fitting to ask you why chose to come to camp this summer? This is the same question Ty asked each staff member moments after we arrived to camp in early June.
It’s a simple question…but a hard one to answer. And really thinking about it is a worthwhile exercise. It’s a question Callum, Max, and I posed to each of the CITs at the start of this summer.
So, why am I here?
Well, I’ve realized that the reasons we choose to come back to camp evolve. They change from year to year, over the course of a single summer, and even over the offseason. And what I’ve come to believe is that while our reasons to return to camp change, our collective love for this place remains constant, created by moments that are uniquely Kawaga.
Let me explain. A year ago, Jacob Cohen and I left camp early to volunteer to be helping paramedics in Israel. It was one of the most influential and inspiring experiences of my life, and importantly, it helped me confirm that I want to become a doctor.
But what I didn’t plan for, and I don’t think Jacob did either, was how hard it would be to leave camp mid-summer and travel to a foreign place, where we literally knew no one.
But nevertheless, we went to Israel. And when we arrived, our Kawaga withdrawal was on full display. Literally all we could think about was camp — what we were missing but more importantly that we just wanted was to come back for another summer.
And at the same time, I wasn’t sure if I ever would be able to return. So, a few nights into the trip, I sat down to write down how I was feeling, with the intent of eventually reading what I wrote to help decide if I’d come back this summer. Those notes quickly turned into a sermon as I quickly realized that I indeed would be returning to camp this summer.
Now, the thesis of that sermon was simple and something all of us have heard before: come back to camp, because camp is where we find our best friends. A tried-and-true message and potentially the greatest attribute camp has to offer.
But fast forward eight months to June of this year. I was reading the sermon over to myself, with the full intention of delivering it at the first service of the session. But to my surprise, the sermon didn’t seem to describe how I felt anymore.
See, in early June, I needed camp to be an escape from the stresses of the outside world, a place where I could disconnect from my phone, forget the pressures of school, worry less, and realize that most things were told to worry about at home, don’t really matter if we don’t let them matter.
And if I were going to write a sermon, I’d need to discuss all of this. So, I went back to that first list of things I’d miss from camp: hanging out with friends during rainy days in the cabin, singing in the Mess Mall, making jokes that only make sense at camp.
And what I realized is that, regardless of why we claim to come back, were really all come back for the same moments.
So I’d like to close by borrowing a list from that first sermon. A list of moments that could be found nowhere else but here. A list of the moments that I now understand to be the reasons I’ve always loved camp. A list of truly Kawaga moments.
Waking up every morning and walking to the Mess Hall.
Greeting a dozen or so of my best friends.
Getting stuck in the water for Polar Bears while the flag raises.
Sending an alvievo for another beautiful day here.
Brushing your teeth while having a few laughs over anything and everything.
Stopping in a friend’s cabin after ABI to talk through all that happened that morning.
Cheering for Monday burgers even though there aren’t any.
Kawaga shuffle because why not!
Walking to the salad bar and stopping to talk to a handful of friends, just because you can. Celebrating getting to the dessert line first, even though you were second to last.
No hands dessert, trivia, and analogies.
Pointless announcements just for the laughs.
Silent cheering for a perfect during inspection.
A Rest Hour spent talking… be it about camp or anything else.
Sprinting to the picture bench to get the best seats for the outdoor meal.
Laying out on the west side of the Omni and just talking.
A “Harry Carry.”
Pointlessly calling somebody to the Pineneedle.
Teaching a friend the meaning behind a line of the Kawaga Ideal.
Teaching a camper of yours that same line a few years later.
Those precious post-EP moments spent reliving the day.
Laughing in the cabin.
Doing whatever you can to support your camper doing his best to make Sachem.
Watching your camper chant the Oath of Sachem next to your best friend.
Making a point of being the loudest cabin for rounds.
Being woken up to some surprise quick-trip snacks.
Being worked up to a strange, yet beautiful, chant.
Quickly taking your shirt off before the oncoming tapping ceremon, giddy with anticipation among your fellow CITs.
Giving your best friend a silent nod and smile after being tapped.
Singing “Conrad’s Kinsmen” under a clear night sky.
Slowly and silently walking back to your cabin afger a tapping ceremony.
Flipping through the annual Pineneedle hours before you leave this place, recounting and reliving all the summer’s highs while your counselors scream “Taps.”
These are the moments that define and fill a summer and are why I’ve come back summer after summer. When you’re sad, camp makes you happy. When you need a boost of confidence, camp makes you feel proud. When you’re stressed at home, camp gives you a whole new world to indulge in. When you need a friend, camp throws a few hundred at you. When you need to grow up, camp helps you mature.
And I suppose, when you need to move on, the experiences, memories, lessons, and relationships you made here will help you do so.
Continue to love camp and enjoy the last few days we all have here this summer.