Eli Rodgers Sermon 7.22.23

Good morning, For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Eli Rodgers. This is my seventh summer at camp and first on staff. Some of you second-year campers may find this a bit confusing. After all, I’m not a familiar face from last summer, so how can this be my seventh? Simply put, that is because I took a year off.

Last summer, I made the difficult decision to take a hiatus from camp to focus on my college application. I did all sorts of things, from college summer programs to volunteer work. While the other things I did were great experiences and important for my college application process, I couldn’t help but wonder what I would have been doing at camp.

Having to turn down the position of counselor last year, a job I would’ve been doing in the most incredible place on earth with some of my best friends, I realized something difficult; life happens. No matter how much I would love to return to this place every year, it’s not something I can say with certainty will happen.

Some of you might know my brother Moses. This summer, he would be a CIT. Unfortunately, he couldn’t make it to camp this year. Now, nothing especially tragic happened; he simply needed to spend this summer focusing on his college application and hockey. While he would love nothing more than to be up here for eight weeks with his brothers, both literal and figurative, it simply wasn’t in the cards. Once again, life happens.

My favorite quote from any Kawaga sermon was in Sean Gooze’s Visitor’s Weekend sermon in 2021, my CIT summer. Though I do not remember the exact wording, he said something along the lines of “If Heaven is so great, then how can it be forever?” In his sermon, he presented the idea that part of what makes camp so special is that it’s only for eight weeks each summer. The impermanence, and the certainty that we will eventually have to leave at the end of the summer, makes each day so meaningful.

I first came to camp in 2015 after being introduced by a friend named Sam Wolkstein. Though I returned year after year, I didn’t love camp that much. I had friends from home who I came here with, and we mostly kept to ourselves, not engaging with the others in our age group too much or enjoying the camp experience.

All of that changed during my Group Two summer. For various reasons, all three of my friends from home would not be back on the shores for the summer. That meant it would just be me and a bunch of other guys I didn’t know that well for four weeks. Though it was tricky at first, those four weeks changed the trajectory of my time at Kawaga. I went from this quiet, standoff-ish kid to someone trying to get my table to start cheering in the mess hall. If you had told me in 2018, my Mohawk A summer, about the person I would be by the time I was a CIT in 2021, I would never have believed it. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that camp, my counselors, and my fellow campers all played an instrumental role in making me the person I am today.

All of this is to say, in a long-winded way, that I love camp. Even still, no one in this room can say with one hundred percent certainty, myself included, that they will be back next year. Most of us can say that we will definitely be back given the opportunity, but none of us can predict the future. What can I say? Life happens.

If you asked me where I would be in the summer of 2022 during my CIT summer, I almost certainly would have told you back here. Moses certainly didn’t think he would be looking at Menominee and Speccy updates on Instagram, checking scores for games he would’ve been playing in.

Camp is not forever. That’s what makes it so great. We all have limited time here, so we need to make the most of it. It’s always just a leagues game until suddenly, it’s your last leagues game. Another Speccy block until you’re the one around the fire, singing iPod shuffle to signal the end of your final Spectacular. Another typical day until there are no more days left, and we’re all back home, scattered far and wide.

Today marks the final day of week five. As the cliche but ever-true saying goes, the days are long, but the weeks are short. So to close, I will leave you with a question and a challenge. How will you make the most of these last twenty days? How will you ensure that when you look back on the summer of 2023, you can genuinely say that you lived it with no regrets? I challenge you to give your all in every endeavor from this point forward. Be the loudest voice in the mess hall. Spend your Open A’s doing things you can’t do at home with your friends. Play that leagues game like it’s your last. After all, life happens, and before long, it really will be.

Thank you.


Eli Rodgers Sermon 7.22.23