A Map of the World

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Each time I have sat down to share some reflection on what a summer without Camp is like, I have been stymied. In no small part, I think, I’m stymied because I start by sharing how suspending our summer has affected us- and me, and that just didn’t seem a good place to start. All of our lives have been disrupted in ways we have never imagined, and each day we are presented with new discordances as we search for some return to “normal.” What does seem all-too true is that at every peak and valley over the last 6 months, kids have borne the brunt of the disruption.

For the last 110 years, the kids that have come to Mishawaka have been able to get a sort of “hard reset”, or “reboot” to use 21st century lingo. Absent that, we are sending them off to the classroom or the Zoom Room, in a precarious state. Teachers and school administrators know this, too, and the teachers on our staff that I have spoken with want nothing more than to give these kids what they need. We do too, and as we gathered our staff leadership team this summer to plan for the future, we were guided by this sense of responsibility, obligation and yes, even possibility.

Oscar Wilde once said that, “A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at…” As our team set out to map the future of Camp Mishawaka, we didn’t have this in mind, but it seems to capture our approach. Even as we struggled to plan a return to “normal”, we found ourselves determined to explore all the possibilities. As Walter Lippman said, “Our business is not to lay aside the dream, but to make it plausible. Drag dreams out into the light of day, show their sources, compare them with fact, transform them to possibilities…a dream…with the sense of the possible.” Kids need these dreams, now more than ever.

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What we are all able to provide for these kids -as we move through this- will be incredibly important. Just as they have been forced to redraw their own map of the world, I have been heartened to hear stories of their resilience, creativity, and an abiding sense of the possible. There will be highs and lows as school opens, no doubt, but at Camp Mishawaka we remain committed to providing a place on the map for kids to learn, play and grow- and to find their best selves, as we like to say.

We have all heard about summer programs that operated this summer and were overrun with COVID-19, though I also know of several traditional residential camps that conducted healthy summer sessions, albeit their summers were different- pods, cohorts, masks, and a new approach to programming. We at Camp Mishawaka have no regrets about our decision not to operate this summer, given the number of unknowns, but as we learn from those camps that succeeded, follow what we all learn as schools return and science advances, we feel prepared to move ahead in 2021. We do so with equal measures of humility, passion, and possibility.

Lippman also said, at points of great inflection, we often find ourselves “between those who are willing to enter upon an effort for which there is no precedent, and those who aren’t. In a real sense it is an adventure.” What is summer camp if not a grand adventure? Here on the shores of Pokegama we find ourselves ready, willing, and able. Onward!

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