Matthew Kisin: “Reflections from the Shores”

Pictured above: Matthew with a group of happy campers on July 4th

Second-year counselor Matthew Kisin delivered the following “sermon” at Saturday’s service,  which we’re proud to share with you:

Shabbat Shalom. My name is Matthew Kisin, and this is my 11th summer at Kawaga and second on staff.

To be honest, when I was asked me to do this sermon, I really had no clue what I was going to write about. There were too many moments over the span of a decade here at camp that made an impact on me for me to mention them all, but this very thought guided me to my chosen topic for this beautiful morning.

Camp, first and foremost, is a special place. The things you can do, the things you can see, and the people you can meet make Kawaga special. The primary reason Kawaga is special is the people who are part of camp. The people that you are surrounded by here are truly remarkable and make camp what it is. Counselors who dedicate their days and nights to your success, cabinmates who guide you through the worst of times, and friends who celebrate with you in the best of times. Even Karma (Ty & Lauren’s Golden Retriever, who’s our camp dog), as inconsequential as she may seem to be, loves to be petted. If you take a second to pet her and then leave, she’ll whine and beg you to come back, making you feel loved even if she is only a dog (though a very special one).

My point is that everyone and everything at camp part of a community where we all support each other and all do our part to ensure the success and happiness of those around us. By guiding others to their success, you find yourself engulfed by a feeling of fulfillment and joy. How did the thought of not coming back to Kawaga this summer even cross my mind?

Throughout this entire past year, I felt internal turmoil. Do I stay home with my home friends before college, or do I return to camp and spend time with people I’ve known for a decade and am lucky enough to call my brothers? Although the answer may seem clear now , in my head at the time, it wasn’t even remotely clear. Every day, I would wake up and feel like I had to navigate through a mental snowstorm to chip away at this fast-approaching decision that I knew I would have to make. And every day, I could change my mind, as influences came from different directions. One day, it’d be a sure thing that I was staying home. The next day I’d think of all what Kawaga offers and means. And, I’d think, “Well, how could I leave a place like this for a couple of friends from home, and abandon all the beauty Kawaga has shown me and brought into my life?”

Some days, I’d think of experiencing a summer at home: going to Lollapalooza, sleeping in, and having not a care in the world. On other days, I’d think of the hard work and all the responsibilities of being a counselor. Yet somehow, my brain drew me to decide on the latter — on returning yet again to Kawaga. The people here are far too special for me to say goodbye to, and the experiences that you can have here, that you can’t have anywhere else, are far too meaningful for me to never have again. This summer has introduced me to countless new beautiful people including Mark, Christina, Grant (shoutout frosted tips!), and many others that I am sure I am forgetting (not a shot at you, it’s just 10:30 PM Friday night and I can’t really think after that draft that just happened – Hoya Nation Baby).

This was the first summer during which I’ve taken a step back to appreciate the nature that surrounds us here at Kawaga. Eagles aren’t all that special to us anymore because we see them every day… just let that sink in! Bald Eagles, diving into water and capturing a fish in their talons, are normal to us. Camp has beauty everywhere you look. After a pouring storm, the way the sky calms down, during an evening program, the smiles and excitement on everyone’s faces, the flood of happiness when sinking a three pointer in competition, and of course the sunsets. Everywhere you look, camp exhibits beauty. Through all these experiences, Kawaga just keeps on giving and, in case you didn’t know, it is one of the only such places in the world.

All I have to say is this: As cliche as it might be, keep coming back! Your youth and your time at camp are limited, and although a summer at home may sound enticing, no one has ever regretted coming back to camp, but countless people have regretted staying home. The time at camp doesn’t just come back once you choose to forego it. A summer on the Shores, surrounded by nature in all its beauty and by people with whom you share a mutual love and respect, beats any beaming hot day at home by miles. It shouldn’t take you staying home for a summer to realize this.

Thank you.