Excuse Me, Do You Happen to Have the Time?

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One of the longest serving counselors in Mishawaka history, Charlie Westgate, made a practice of telling jokes to campers and staff. Some of them pushed the limit or were loaded with double entendre. I have probably forgotten more of them than I remember, but one of them seems to always come back to me. Charlie told the story of the time he visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa and came across a man who was hanging clocks throughout the listing monument. When he approached him and asked him what on earth he was doing, the man responded simply that he decided long ago that it would be a shame to have the inclination, but not the time. (Cue head shaking.)

Maybe the reason it sticks with me, or comes back to me with such regularity, is that so much of what we do at Camp Mishawaka is to carve out time for kids to figure out just what their inclinations are - and, no, not that kind! Who among us hasn’t wondered aloud lately as to just where the time has gone, or where it goes? “Free time” is scarce for sure, and “I’ve been so busy” is often the de facto response to any inquiry as to how we are doing! Set aside the fact that it doesn’t really answer the questions as to how one is doing. It’s unclear if “I’m so busy” is a complaint or a badge of honor. It’s such a common retort that it doesn’t seem to engender sympathy or admiration. I mean, we’re all busy, aren’t we?

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In the presentations I have made this year to prospective Camp families I have led with the idea that Camp Mishawaka gives a kid the time of their life. Mishawaka is built for kids - an intentional space and community staffed by counselors who are dedicated to providing an experience that is filled with joy, accomplishment, and friendship. It is like nothing else available. But what is also obvious to me is that Camp Mishawaka gives a kid time in their life. It gives kids something that has become truly scarce for them as they often move from pre-determined activity to activity. And, as we know, in any free time they do find, their head is often down, buried in a device. ( Full disclosure: I am not immune to this either!)

In her book, Saving Time, Discovering a LIfe Beyond the Clock, author Jenny Odell speaks of time in two ways. The first, and most familiar, is chronos- as in chronograph, or watch. It is the kind of time we use when we say I will meet you at noon for lunch. Kairos, the other kind of time, is more about an opportune moment, a season, or a (sometimes unwelcome) interruption to our forward path. She refers to these moments as “vertical time”- a space when we build up and out, and not just forward on the perceived treadmill of life. I believe it is just this sort of time - as provided by a Camp Mishawaka session - that allows kids to “find their best selves”. We hear that testimonial over and over each year, and unlike the “I’m so busy” retort that falls flat, this one inspires much admiration and appreciation.

Camp Mishawaka does save time for just these sorts of experiences. To be sure, much of time at Camp is linear, and the bells, schedule and calls regulate much of our day. We awake, eat, and go to bed at very regulated times. But within that space there are loads of opportunities to discover the vertical time that is so meaningful. I suspect that each day at Camp, dozens (if not hundreds) of these towers of “times” are built - and that even if they are leaning, they still stand today.

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