Just a few weeks ago Mandi and I welcomed our new son, Westley Austin Adams, into the world. Oddly enough, having Westley was perfect timing for me because it allowed me to step back from the fray of summer camp and get a different perspective. In many ways, I felt like a camp parent, constantly scanning Instagram and Facebook!
It was fun to get back on campus last week. I intentionally spent my first hour at camp not doing anything. I wanted to just walk around and observe campers and staff as they went about their camp day. On my walk a few things bubbled up…things that really encouraged me. I’d argue that these things make Huawni one of the more throwback and best camps in Texas.
Traditions at camp give kids a sense of safety and reliability.
One of the first things that I got to see was Mail Call at lunch. I was quickly reminded of how your campers were getting to enjoy so many of our decade-old traditions…still! Why do our campers love tradition so much? Why are campers so protective of them? Over the years we’ve come to realize that kids crave consistency. Whether it’s singing Dark Side with a handful of Ada’s Fried Chicken or anticipating your name being called at Mail Call, kids count on consistency at Huawni. This is not always the case at home. School changes, friend group changes, family changes, and relocating home changes all affect our campers’ lives at home. Traditions at camp give kids a sense of safety and reliability.
As I walked through the Staff Room (this is where staff meets every morning to plan the day and enjoy a fresh cup of coffee) a couple more memories welled up inside of me. One of the first things I noticed was Rob Payne’s picture mounted on the wall with the title Batman. Again, meaningless to some unless you know the story. Rob was one of our beloved and dedicated directors in the 80’s and 90’s. Rob was the operations guy while Chris Watlington (also Rob’s best friend) was the creative guy. So it was not a surprise to see Rob tinkering on things, like field lights, water pumps, or even sewer lines.
The cool thing about Camp is that we all treasure our own unique and special memories.
One day Rob was underneath Lily Pad working on an electrical tie in. He stepped out from underneath the cabin and fellow director Matt Gregory said, “Hey man, you’ve got a bat on your shoulder.” Rob thought Matt was kidding, until of course the bat extended it’s wings and made a screeching noise! Rob proceeded to run around trying to get the bat off his back. If you know this story, you see this picture and immediately connect to it. The cool thing about Camp is that we all treasure our own unique and special memories. There were likely dozens of Batman-like stories that happened this summer with your kiddos. And as time goes on those stories may one day end up in the staff room. Same location. Unique memories. It’s part of what ties Huawnians together.
Another thing that caught my eye in the staff room was the sign that reads, “Go make a difference in the life of a child.” Alumnus and friend Chase Palmer made this phrase popular at Huawni back in the 90’s, and in 2008 my brother Austin put up this sign in the staff room. Since then, staff will walk out of staff meeting and slap the sign. It was a daily reminder that our focus is on the kids and others, not ourselves.
Ceremonies are a lost art and have been significant over human history in building healthy cultures. They still play a major role at Huawni. Meaningful ceremonies at Camp that come to mind for me are Tribal Competition, Little Red Church, Flag Raising, Summer Tree, Sing Song, Initiation, and Slapping the Sign.
These are really timely, seemingly insignificant reminders that point campers and staff towards camaraderie, unconditional love, singing, vulnerably sharing emotions, more singing, spoken identity, and remembering that life is not about me. These moments tie us together and help point us to who we are.
So what was I encouraged by? I was reminded that Huawni continues to provide a safe space where children capture one-of-a-kind memories and experience meaningful ceremonies. It’s what ties each Tribe Member together and ultimately helps us on our journey to know who we were created to be.