This is my favorite holiday and this morning, as I reflected on all that I’m grateful for, I was moved to share with you a short personal short story. So if you’re in the mood to read, great; if you’re busy doing what needs to be done then great keep rolling.
This morning I was reminded of a Thanksgiving about 10 years ago where I had separately asked my parents what they thought I got out of Kawaga. This was prior to Lauren and I being directors and at that point my Kawaga career included 4 years as a camper and 7.5 as a counselor. Sneaking in 4 weeks post college in between jobs was encouraged by my parents.
In fact, my parents were of the mindset that I needed to make my own decisions from a very young age. They wanted me to be happy and successful, in that order. So, when asked about the main reason they kept allowing me to keep going back to camp well after my college years this is what they said.
Mom was quick to share, “you would return from Kawaga I was a more confident young man.” While I don’t remember a singular moment that clicked, she was right. I had a growing sense of self and purpose when I came home that propelled me through the school year.
Dad was a little more patient with his response and ultimately landed on, “there was no other place where you would have been able to access such strong relationships with friends.” This is also true and still to this day I have the type of friends from camp you could only dream about.
Our founder “Doc E”, renowned in his accomplishments, cared so deeply about the growing of boys into men. He created countless lessons and phrases we use at camp each summer. The one that resonates deepest this time of year is:
“As God gave us the fire so gave he us the warmth of friendship”.
It is on the mantle of our mess hall, it is spoken prior to lighting the fire in our council ring, and they are all revered and uniquely Kawaga. So the next time you light a fire, maybe you will be reminded of the strength in friendship and fellowship we take so seriously at Kawaga.
Thank you all for being a part of our Kawaga family. I am grateful for all of you. For our staff, campers and all our alumni; for our owners and their trust and support in us; for Lauren and our family for making camp home; and for “Doc E” and all of what he gave all of us in this magical camp.
But today I can’t help but think of my first two fans in life and the freedom they gave me – to be me. To make my own choices, to fail, and to let me learn how to get back up. For them encouraging me to cut across the grain and teaching me life is meant to be lived and enjoyed doing something you love.