Chance Kosner Sermon

Shabat Shalom. For those who don’t know me, my name is Chance Kosner and this is my 11th summer at Kawaga. Coming up to Kawaga for the first time in 2014 for the second session with no friends, I had no idea what I was even signing up for. By the end of those 4 weeks, I was stepping off the bus, begging my mom to let me go 8 weeks the next year. What I learned that summer was that Kawaga was bar none the best place on all of Earth. I can still recall spending the nights talking and laughing away with a group of kids I had never met even just a week ago. I remember swimming the bay, after trying so hard and failing, and the feeling of accomplishment from ringing that bell and all the congratulations I received. These are the little things that keep Kawaga, Kawaga. 

In the following years, I would start to spend more and more time concerned with achieving entrance into the tribes of both Mawanda and Sachem. It was attempting to go for both of these tribes, but especially Sachem, where I learned how to grow as a person. I remember in my Mohawk B summer, I had set a goal of achieving Sachem by the 6 week mark, as I believed I was very capable of it. However, when this time passed me by without me having made Sachem, I was absolutely devastated. I can vividly remember Jackson Gruber coming up to me as I was crying on the picture bench above the tennis courts. He expressed how he was sad for me too and was really hoping to see me achieve my goal, but also reminded me that sitting around and continuing to think about something that had already happened was pointless. He encouraged me to look forward, to figure out what I had to do to achieve my goal, and how to not forget that this happened but instead use it as motivation to become a better version of myself. 

At the time, I had difficulty fully understanding this sentiment. I had set my goal, and failed to achieve it. What was the point now? But regardless Gruber continued to encourage me, as well as suggest that I return to one of the fundamental points in achieving Sachem, that being memorizing the Kawaga Ideal. As a 12 year old camper going for only my second total Sachem, I had never considered viewing the Ideal as anything more than a boring text that I had to memorize to get a name and feather. But it was upon this re-reading, where I began to soak in what the Ideal was attempting to teach, and what Kawaga was teaching as a whole. There is intention and reason behind everything that is done here, but especially when it comes to the Ideal. Memorizing, reciting, and reflecting on the Ideal is one of very few explicit requirements for Sachem. The board on which it is written is placed right atop the hill overlooking all of camp. Night after night since I first stepped onto the shores, it has played over the PA, as one of the last things we hear before going to sleep. There are constant reminders of the standard we are expected to achieve, the person we are able to become.

Exactly what makes this so special, is that we don’t even notice it, it’s simply a cog in a machine that is our lives. What is difficult to know, is that without this one little cog, everything starts to fall apart. For 110 years, the Ideal has been the outline for what Kawaga has hoped to instill into each and every person that has touched this place. Even when you aren’t at camp, the lessons you are taught and the experiences that you have here will still remain and bit by bit, make you into the person that the Ideal describes. I encourage you, not necessarily to study the Ideal, but instead to simply keep living your daily camp life. Invest yourself in what camp has to offer, and regardless of your awareness, the lessons the Ideal preaches will reach you over, and over, and over again. To conclude I will end the same way the Ideal does, as Kawaga has certainly assured me that “I have not lived in vain.” Thank you.