Disconnecting to Really Connect

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Last week I went to a local chain restaurant to pick up food for my family. It was a familiar scene as I walked in. A bunch of strangers who had ordered from home and suddenly found themselves waiting in the same room for their food. As I looked around I realized that the choice of our dinners wasn’t the only thing that most of us had in common. As we waited for dinner all of us were staring at our phones reading news stories, updating our social media, giving ‘likes’, watching short videos, checking emails and doing anything and everything other than connecting with one another.

Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal. We don’t often get much satisfaction from conversing with strangers while we wait, but as I looked up for a second I saw a former hockey player who I had coached nearly 10 years ago. I immediately said, “hi” and we spent the next 5 minutes happily catching up with one another while we waited. We reminisced on the teams we were part of 10 years ago, asked each other about familiar names of the past and updated each other on what we were doing currently. Then my name was called. I got my food. We said goodbye and I headed home feeling very happy to have gotten the chance to reconnect with a former athlete.

On my way home I couldn’t help but wonder how many encounters we miss because of the 6”x2” super computer we carry constantly in our pockets. How often do we miss the opportunity to have a face-to-face conversation because we are emailing, texting or snapping another person? How often do we fail to recognize a moment we experience in person because we are too busy posting about it? How often do we miss what’s all around us in this world because we are immersed in the virtual world? How often do we connect with anonymous people online while disconnecting from people right next to us?

Even more important, what about our kids? What is it like growing up in a time with so much technology at their fingertips? We know that technology has enriched their lives in many ways but what fun do they miss out on because they’re watching the latest Tik Tok?

At Camp Mishawaka, campers get two, four, six or eight weeks without having to ask those questions. For those refreshing weeks kids get to be kids. They get to disconnect from technology completely and experience a world that they can’t experience anywhere else. There are no cell phones or electronic devices at Camp Mishawaka (unfortunately we adults still have our phones with us :/).

For many adults this would seem like a fantasy land. Imagine, being able to go even just a week without being chained down to the devices that are supposed to free us up! Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? It’s amazing for the campers as well. Although many campers find it difficult at first, a common comment from most campers is that one of the best parts of camp is that they go phone free for their time here. They get a break from constantly being bombarded with information, entertainment and messages. Instead, campers get to experience their childhood as many of us did. They get to devote 100% of their time and attention to observing their surroundings in nature, running, playing, reading, swimming, laughing, struggling, singing, sailing, canoeing, hiking, climbing, having fun, being with friends around them and creating memories - true and real connections - that will last a lifetime!