Reflections from the Shores | Bradley Gottlieb’s Sermon

Parents and Alumni,

I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation about Kawaga with counselors, campers, or Alumni that didn’t include so many remembrances about special small moments. That’s what Bradley talked to us about on Saturday. He encourages us not to take these moments for granted — instead, to cherish them, remember them, and to be present in them. These are wise words coming from a young man.

Enjoy the read,

Shabbat Shalom

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Bradley Gottlieb. This is my ninth summer at Kawaga and third on staff.

As you are all aware, Camp Kawaga is an extremely special place to so many people. I could speak for days about Kawaga, but unfortunately I only have about five minutes.

Today I want to talk to all of you about noticing all of the little things that make camp and life in general so great. Everybody in today’s world is always focused on what is next without truly appreciating what is happening around you. I too engage in this behavior, but I am trying to work on it. Before you know it, you’ll be home without all of your camp friends to banter with.

In reality, Camp Kawaga is quite similar to many other camps around the country, but it’s the little and unique things about Kawaga that make all the difference.

For instance, last night all first-year campers were introduced to their Big Brothers. The “ahhhs” in the Mess Hall in anticipation for whether the Little Brother will be taller than his Big Brother is a very small part of camp but, don’t overlook it; it’s these little moments make camp what it is.

More of these little moments that make Camp Kawaga so special include: nature breaks; racing to the window in the Mess Hall when Ty turns on the seconds light; getting woken up for a midnight movie; getting caught in the water for Polar Bears at a flag call; counselors running out of the Mess Hall during a meal when townies are using our rafts at the waterfront; or even the fierce scream of the Tapper during a Tapping Ceremony before he taps a deserving brave.

A specific moment that I will always remember happened just a few short weeks ago before the Kawaga Spectacular. We were picking out of Ty’s hat for the order of first-round picks. I wanted anywhere from the 1-6 through 1-9, so I could draft my best friend and brother, Jason. When Jonathan and I unfolded our piece of paper and saw that we had the 1-8, I was thrilled. This moment will always be engraved in my memory

I could go on and on about these little traditions and events that make Kawaga what it is, but that would be silly. You all understand the point.

Time is truly fleeting; we all have no time to waste. Cherish everything. This does not only apply to camp, it applies to real life as well. During elementary school, cherish recess. In middle school, be worry free because high school is a whole different animal. High school comes fast and there is a lot to juggle with social life, school, sports, and sleep. Then, college comes and you can barely see the friends you have grown up with for the previous 18 years.

I want all of you to make a conscious effort to be present in the moment for these next three weeks. Maybe it is on your walk to Polar Bears that you realize that more than 100 young boys jump into our Northwoods lake right when they wake up.

We are so busy at camp, but I urge you all to just stop and look around once in a while to appreciate the fact that we are at such a special place.

The purpose of this sermon directly connects to a small phrase in the Kawaga Ideal, “The simplicity of true greatness.” These words mean that greatness does not come only during a major event or milestone. Sometimes, the greatest things in life are the simple things such as a sunset or a conversation with a friend about when they think chicken patties will be served again.

Unfortunately, this is the first year that I am not certain about returning next summer, which is a very scary thought. For this reason, I am not taking any little moments for granted. This is no goodbye speech by any measure, but it is simply a reminder to us all that our time here is limited. There will be a summer where you do not get to cheer in the Mess Hall until you lose your voice; have sleepovers with all of your best friends every night; and have a blast on this paradise we call camp. I want all of you guys to make the most of every second you have here and notice all of the special little things that make Kawaga a place that so many return to for so many years.

Like Ferris Bueller says: Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.