Reflections from the Shores | Sam Pacala’s Sermon

Kawaga Family,

I’m pleased to share with you Saturday’s sermon, given by Sam Pacala, a veteran Kawaga counselor, who’s spending his 12th summer on The Shores.

Sam wrote and gave his sermon a day before we learned today’s great news that we’ve successfully maintained our bubble at Kawaga and are easing out of our cohorts. Not coincidentally, Sam talks about the role of personal accountability in his life and the lessons learned at Kawaga. I’m proud to share with you his words and hope they resonate with you as did with all of us.

Be Kawaga. Be Brave. Be Responsible.


Shabbat Shalom.

Hi everyone. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Sam Pacala. This is my fourth year on staff and my 12th summer on The Shores.

Throughout my time at camp, I’ve probably listened to 50 of these talks, learning about others camp experiences, and up until a couple of days ago, I never thought that I’d be up here, talking to you all,

So I’ll start off by saying this. I love camp. I love everything about it. The people, the activities, the land, the sunsets, everything. I love how everybody has a place here, but that being said, that place is much harder to find than others.

I was never the best camper. At times I was overconfident, naive, and disrespectful to my fellow campers and counselors. I felt that despite my best efforts, I couldn’t find that place where I felt like I truly fit. I remember having multiple talks with my counselor, Jeremy Loewenstein, as a Mohawk B in 2012 about not sweating the small stuff, letting things roll off of my shoulders, and taking the high road in situations. I remember reading and memorizing the Ideal for Sachem, but always having trouble interpreting the lines after reciting it. Overall, I didn’t understand what it meant to Be Kawaga, even though I thought that I did.

Now don’t get me wrong, like I said before, I loved and still love camp. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here talking to you all. This is a place where all of us are able to push ourselves and strive to achieve things of value. Every single summer I had an amazing time, but in my case, each summer wasn’t without its challenges.

Those challenges, those many talks with my counselors, and the disappointment and frustration that I felt within myself are gifts that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Why, you might be asking yourself, might that be?

During pre camp this year, Ty told the staff that the greatest gift that one can give is feedback. This spoke to me, but I’d like to make a slight alteration to that. I would say that the greatest gift that one can give to himself is feedback. In my CIT summer in 2016, as I was beginning to mature into the man that I am today, I started to think back onto those lessons that I had taken for granted years ago. I finally began to realize that it wasn’t everybody else who was stopping my progression as a person, but rather it was myself. I realized that only I had the power to change my behavior, and that none of my peers were going to adapt to me.

So, I got a Kawaga business card, which you’ve probably seen, which has the Ideal printed on its back. I read it over and over and over again, trying to understand each piece of it through an introspective lens. I began to realize where I had gone wrong in the past. I never mastered myself before I sought to master others. I wasn’t strong or unbending in defeat or humble or gentle in victory. I realized that I was living in vain.

As I kept reading and learning about myself, one line of the Ideal began to stick out to me more than the others: “One who will reach into the future, but never forget the past.” This line literally spurred my transformation into who I am today, and is the foundation for my personal viewpoints and values. To me, this line can be summed up in one word: Accountability. Accountability for those around you, sure, but more importantly accountability to yourself. Never before this did I have the ability to move forward positively after I made a mistake. And, to this day, you can ask my campers, my fellow 2016 CITs, my parents, anybody, that I hold accountability in the highest regard.

Because I am able to remember the past, I am now able to look to the future with a different perspective, one of growth and flexibility rather than negligence and stubbornness.

As I said previously, camp has a place for everyone, but that doesn’t mean it’s a cakewalk. It has been 12 years, and I will continue for the rest of my life to try to learn and grow. I can now confidently say that I belong here, that I am doing everything in my power to live up to the Ideal, that this is a place where I am truly happy. Camp is the only place that I’ve ever been where anyone can learn and grow in a mentally and physically safe way. Everyone has room to grow as a person, everyone has ways that they can better themselves, and everyone has someone to thank that helped them along that journey. So I encourage you all to take a step back, to look at the man staring back at you in the glass, to hold yourself accountable, to thank your peers for their feedback, and to strive to be worthy of the name Kawaga Brave.

Thank you.