Better Together

Every Sunday, we attend chapel, which is not religious, but is more a conversation about a theme that relates to camp. This week, the camp mom Marie Brown wrote an incredible piece about community that was read aloud at chapel. It really captured the spirit of community at camp. Here it is:

Camp CommunityWe live in a country, that loves to celebrate the individual. Its fun to idealize the greatness of the one. The wonder of their singular feats to seduces us. It’s exciting to see a human be remarkable. Serena Williams and her consistent prowess as a tennis giant is already amazing, and seeing her coming back to make it to the Wimbledon finals after a 13 month maternity leave…that is worthy of our attention. Simone Biles developing a gymnastics skill that no one had ever competed before and few fellow Olympic gymnasts can even do.  Of course she won a gold metal for that. Of course that’s incredible. In pop culture, we pay attention to the newest star, and the biggest star, we listen to the news on Justin Bieber or Beyoncé because they have talent, and fame and fortune enough to make them seriously stand above the crowd. There is something authentically compelling about these individuals and their successes that earns them the attention.

But the trouble is, it is easy to forget that not a single one of those winners, stars, or firsts got their on their own. And its easy to overlook that the amount of attention we love to give them is actually really hard for them to tolerate. Humans didn’t evolve to be the soaring eagle, rising and flying alone in the glaring sun of that much attention. It takes even more strength in some ways to live a healthy full life when you are watched that closely. But we ignore that. We love the symbolism of the bald eagle all alone. But in our poetic use of that image as our ideal, we really fail to tell the whole story. We are pack animals. And like Wendy shared with us last week, we need touch, and hugs. We can not survive without them. And when we paint the picture as if we can, we not only set ourselves up for intense disappointment, we also fail to acknowledge that for every individual phenomenal success we adore, there is a whole network of phenomenal successes making up the community that played a part in growing these stars into the stunning athletes, or artists, or astronauts they become. In our hunger to put the Neil Armstrong’s on a pedestal for being the first human to walk on the moon, we often fail to honor the teams of exceptionally brilliant, hardworking men…and women, who’s stunning demonstration of collaboration and idea sharing, knowledge and innovation, mentorship and support, care-giving and service it took to make that kind of impossible dream a reality.

water puring on heads skitAnd so in our own lives and dreams, it is easy to feel like we must strive to be the One in order to be valued. And while that is wonderful to aspire to, it is good to remember to recognize even those idealized heroes are members of a community. The most astonishing of whom take their place in the spot-light to look back on their communities and give back, to lift up others, to serve one another, to collaborate and create more than any one alone could ever devise, to listen and empathize, to laugh, and to hug. My heroes are those who have the will to give, and the grace to receive love from a community that they both support and are supported by.

That is what is so refreshing about being here at Rockbrook. Lets take a moment to stop and recognize that we all are so privileged to share a brief time together in this magical place on the planet where being a part of the community is so easy. Where being a good community member is encouraged and celebrated. Where it is an honor to be given a task to give back to the group, or tasked with sometimes even really hard work. For example, the CA’s, High-Up, CIT, and counselors. I remember being a young camper how much we wanted nothing more than to get to be all of these respected roles. When what do they do? They work exceptionally hard to take care of their community. These are our Rockbrook heroes.

camp girls smileSo when I say it is so easy to be part of a community here it doesn’t mean it is always easy here. Do not let me take away the sense of real struggle we all can feel at times when we are trying to be our best here. But do remember that the habits of community spirit we practice here at Rockbrook are so much easier to build where we all live, eat, and play together, where we struggle up the mountainside together, and stifle our cries of fear together at the sight of a skunk, or tolerate cold showers after a long line, and laugh, and laugh, and laugh together. Here we are interconnected on everything. So being a part of a community is a natural state.

But that is not often true in our worlds back home where all the screens, and cars, and modern conveniences distract and diminish our natural skills to interconnect as living, breathing human beings. So take this time here to build the muscles of your community spirit–your Rockbrook spirit–so you can feel them and find them when you are a Rockbrook girl alone out the “real” world. So you can demonstrate them to the rest of the world, and can always remember that striving to be your best includes being a community hero who gives as much as she receives, and (perhaps can still feel the faint memory of a string of well-earned Bend-a-Back Spirit beads proudly displayed around her neck.)

camp girls together

A Look Behind the Scenes

Bentley Parker — Camp Mom

I think I was supposed to write on the events of the day here at RBC, but I wrote about the ones that make those events happen. I just thought that you, as parents, would fully appreciate learning more about these great leaders that your girls will, most certainly, come home talking about.

Let me begin by saying that this blog entry was left to my discretion. Our humble full time staff here at Rockbrook would not choose to be boastful by having an entry written about them. But, Mama B has the password, and I feel this post is well deserved!

As a camp mom, I get to show up and do what comes natural by helping out in situations that warrant a mom’s attention. My duties seem simple compared to the ones of the full time staff around me who work all year and around the clock in the summer to provide the very best camp experience for our daughters. I am amazed every year at the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes requiring countless hours of planning and organization. What appears to campers to be spontaneous activities, really takes hours of planning to make it happen. Every detail of all planned activities here at Rockbrook has been thought out months ahead of time, so that everything runs smoothly down to the daily muffin flavor, bead color, and set of paddling gear.

This is all made possible by a staff that has a passion for Rockbrook Camp. They were all campers and/or staff here previously, which makes their jobs personal. They all have a great love for this camp, and their goal is for our daughters to have the same great experience that they did. They work continuously to make it even better. They each have gregarious personalities and each possesses individual gifts, that when combined, make RBC run like a well oiled machine.

The descriptions below are only a portion of all the tasks that the administrative staff accomplish here at Rockbrook. I took the liberty of interviewing a variety of campers and counselors here this session because when I try to describe such an amazing team, my words seem inadequate.

Sofie

SOFIE-She describes herself as “a counselor the counselors,” but she’s so much more than that!  Her gift is with people, and her spirit is electric. She does interviewing that takes place all year, as she handpicks the young women that will lead your children. And, I must say, this is one of the best staff of counselors that I have ever seen. Their energy is continuous, and their smiles are never ending. The personalities spotted by Sofie have meshed perfectly with one another, and the joyous spirits have transplanted  to the campers, providing  a perfect camp atmosphere.  The counselors all laugh with her and enjoy her company here at camp, but they have the utmost respect for her. She holds them accountable in a joyous way that makes them want to strive to be better leaders. One counselor described her as “the sun,” and I think that’s a perfect description.

Grace

GRACE-She can be spotted here at camp with what she calls her “squinty smile,” and she’s easy to identify because it’s always on her face. If you listen carefully, you can also find her by hearing her laughter, which makes her the perfect liaison between the girls and parents.

She’s on top of any situation that may arise with campers, and she does such a beautiful job of communicating with young girls in a way in which they can relate. She also insures that your girls have every opportunity to participate in all their desired activities here at camp, so that their experience is all that they hoped it would be. She has the gift of organization as shown by her assurance that each child is on the appropriate list for the activity that they have chosen, and that the counselors of that activity are anxiously awaiting their attendance. She spends a great deal of time pairing pen pals, which the girls look forward to, and allows new campers to feel connected before their arrival. Cabin assignments are also a crucial part of Grace’s job, as she carefully places each child with a peer group and counselor for each session.

Chase

CHASE-Chase exemplifies the epitome of the Rockbrook Spirit, and I think this is essential for someone planning all the events that your girls attend here at camp. She makes everything “fun,” as shown on your girls faces as they attended a pirate party, World Cup soccer night, pancake breakfast, overnights, vegetable garden cutting, and the list goes on. I can only imagine the preparation it takes to get ready for a party for this many girls with various silly activities and snack choices. She makes it look easy, and the greatest part is, she has the best time of all!  She has insured that all the activities are stocked with all the necessary equipment and supplies. A great deal of her time in the off season is spent ordering beads, paint, fabric, clay, string, and all the necessary supplies needed so your daughter can create masterpieces to bring home. Her jovial spirit is evident in everything she coordinates, and a good time is had by all.

SARAH and JEFF Carter-I can honestly say I don’t have any conception of the quantity or  variation of tasks this couple accomplishes on a daily basis to run this camp so successfully. If I attempted to describe their efforts, I’m sure I would way under estimate the time and energy it takes to run such an extraordinary organization. But, I can say with confidence, that every detail is considered, every activity researched, every staff member contemplated,  and every aspect perfected.

Jeff

JEFF-Although he may appear to be in the background to many of the younger campers, he plays a profound roll in the experiences of the older campers. As a past Rockbrook hiking instructor, he has a great knowledge and love for the outdoors that he enjoys sharing with the older girls. He provides great safety skills and a sense of security for the girls that are transitioning to counselors, on their three day overnight. One counselor stated “He had a great Rockbrook experience, and he wants to give back so that girls can grow, learn, and pass it on to their campers.” Jeff has a keen awareness of everything that is going on during camp. He’s always there to making sure everything is running according to plan. His state of the art website is work of its own, and he’s constantly seeking improvements to be made each year.

Sarah

SARAH-Sarah fully appreciates each and every Rockbrook tradition, and she values its meaning. She has worked very hard to preserve the heritage here that she remembers as a child. It is such a joyful experience for her and for the rest of the moms who attended here, to be able to share this with our daughters. Her gentle, calm spirit  makes campers comfortable, and she handles all situations with such grace.  Whatever circumstance she is faced with at camp,  she exemplifies patience, which puts everyone around her at ease. She not only knows each and every camper by name, but she recognizes their distinct qualities. She fully appreciates each of your daughters’ uniqueness, and how they contribute to their cabin community.

When you have owners and staff who are emotionally invested, it drives them to make camp all it can be. Their spirit for camp is contagious, and your daughters will hold on to the memories they have helped create throughout the year. I am grateful that all the girls who attend Rockbrook are the beneficiaries of such a passion, aimed at the creation of a great camp experience!

A Camp perspective from Mama B

ChapelAttempts can be made to replicate a camp, stories retold, even plagiarized, but the spirit of Rockbrook can never be duplicated.

So what makes a camp distinct, different from the rest, making it a place that generations of girls, from all over the world, count down the days until they can return?  What is it that sets apart a place that mothers long for their daughters to experience what they did as children?

As a camper, counselor, mom of campers, and now camp mom, my answer to this question comes from reflection over my life, and how much camp builds character and develops skills used for a lifetime.  Although, through the years, my perspective has changed, Rockbrook’s legacy is untouched, its heritage valued, and its spirit stronger than ever.  Girls from Rockbrook have an indescribable bond, a link to one another, bound by the fact that they were “camp girls” together.

Girls from RBC enjoy sharing what they love about camp.  From a parental perspective, here are a few of my favorites:

CHOICES-When else in life do young ladies get to decide for themselves how to spend their entire day and what hobby, talent, or new experience to pursue?  In my opinion, this teaches decision-making skills and develops a sense of independence they carry with them to adulthood.  It also facilitates adventure, encouraging them to try new things, step out of their comfort zones, and embrace new opportunities.

SIMPLICITY-We live in such a fast paced world that we forget to notice the beauty around us.  Simple domestic life at camp creates an atmosphere to better appreciate the natural surroundings.  It eliminates distractions, so campers and staff notice the magnitude of the mountains, sound of the streams, and smell of the mountain laurel.  This less busy, slower paced environment also aids in the development of new friendships.

Cabin

LIMITED TECHNOLOGY-As the mom of a teenager, I have noticed a real void in the communication skills of teens today.  Because there are no computers, TVs, or phones at camp, girls communicate face to face, an invaluable lifelong skill.

TRADITION-A place rich in tradition binds girls together despite their differences.  A camp deeply rooted in traditions gives girls the comfort that some things are “unchanging” and safe place, despite their changing circumstances around them.  They look forward to the things they do every year down to the songs, Spirit Fire, and ice cream.

And finally, LAUGHTER!  It’s good for the soul.  Girls are free to be who they are, uninhibited from the pressures of the outside world.  Loud songs are encouraged, costumes welcomed, and all personalities accepted.

Miss RBC.jpg

In conclusion, my gratitude has grown as I’ve come to appreciate the camp experience.  The more time I spend here, the more I realize that Rockbrook Camp has helped shape and mold me into the person I am today, and no matter how old I am, I’ll always be a Rockbrook girl!

Bentley Parker–Auburn, Alabama

Rockbrook Girl 1979-2013