Josh Zirin Sermon

Shabbat Shalom.

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Josh Zirin. This is my twelfth summer on the shores and my fourth on staff. 

To be completely honest with you all, I wrote this sermon weeks ago, before I even came up to camp for the summer, following one of the most difficult two-week spans of my life: the aftermath of my tonsillectomy. To those unaware, a tonsillectomy is a very routine surgical removal of two small oval-shaped objects in the back of the throat. A typical recovery is about two weeks, but my recovery was far from typical.

After recovering at home for about 4 days, I wound up being rushed back to the hospital at 5 am one morning with severe bleeding. Hoping to be in and out of the hospital within the day, I ended up spending the next five days stuck in a hospital bed with other complications involving a respiratory infection, another surgery, and a 103º fever. Finally, on Wednesday, May 15, I was discharged from the hospital, freed from my health-based prison sentence. Some of the greatest relief I have ever felt in my life is shared between Michigan’s goal-line stop of Alabama in overtime of the College Football Playoffs and being told “Let’s get you outa here” by my nurse at Lake Forest Hospital.

The first thing I noticed upon leaving the hospital was the smell of fresh air. Damp, fragrant, full. I hadn’t had a breath of fresh air in nearly a week. The second thing I noticed was how nice it was to be able to move my right arm freely, unrestricted by the two IVs that had previously occupied it. The third thing I noticed was how damn comfortable my home bed was and how amazing the water pressure of my own shower felt after a week of hardly being able to clean myself.

All these things may seem insignificant to all of you, but in each of these moments, I felt a little bit more like myself, a little bit more human. It’s hard to truly explain the feeling, but I know for a fact that you have all experienced it before because camp gives me the same feeling almost every day.

At night, when I look up and can see the entire history of the universe painted onto the sky, I feel it. In the morning, when I plunge into the frigid bay for a morning jolt of energy, I feel it. In the mess hall, when an old Speccy team that I was on’s fight song is sung and I get to scream my heart out, remembering old times, I feel it.

Often, we take all these things for granted because we are at camp, and these things are so normal. Too often, it takes us going home for the offseason to realize what we are missing. It’s almost like when you wake up with a sore throat and only then do you realize how nice it is for your throat to feel normal on other days. If my sermon can leave you with any lasting message, I hope it’s this: Don’t wait until your throat hurts to appreciate what the lack of pain feels like. In camp terms, don’t wait until you’re home to appreciate Kawaga.

Each and every day here is a new opportunity to appreciate camp. Whether it’s spending time with your buddies down by the waterfront, playing a game of 42 on the Omni, shooting your first bullseye, shooting your fortieth bullseye, or anything in between, camp provides countless opportunities to appreciate. I hope today, you take the chance to choose one.