By Laurie – 2023 Summer Echoes Campfire

I am 48-years-old, have a Masters in Social Work, and have held many jobs and responsibilities in my life. While I have learned a lot from my family and friends, from school, and from my life experience, all I ever really needed to know, the truly important stuff, I learned from Camp Echo Lake.

Here are the things I learned at camp:

You can feel two feelings at once, even if they are opposite feelings. I have such vivid memories of being a camper here. One of the most powerful memories is feeling how much I missed my family and also feeling how much I loved camp and my camp friends and counselors. It’s weird to want to go “home” and also feel like you already are “home.” Knowing that I could feel sad and happy at the same time was a powerful lesson. As an adult, I still miss my family when I am at camp and I also feel that camp is my family. Learning how to be comfortable feeling two feelings at once has taught me a lot.

Be Nice. Kindness matters. Doing the right thing – especially when no one is watching – matters. Being inclusive of others only adds more friends to the list and it does not take away from existing friendships. It is easy to be nice, you just have to decide you want to be.

Try Hard. You have to be in it to experience it. You need to say yes to life. You have to fall seven times, but get up eight. Nothing good happens if you stay in your comfort zone. It is just outside your comfort zone that growth happens. Effort matters. You don’t have to be the best, you just have to try.

Warm Inner Glows. The true secret of fuzzies is that it feels really good to get a fuzzy but it feels even better to give one. Taking notice of the people around you being nice and trying hard and acknowledging that not only makes them feel good, but makes you feel good too.

Green and Gold Spirit. What I love most about our tribal competition is the fact that you can’t have Green without Gold and vice versa. We play hard. Sometimes we win. Sometimes we lose. We cheer, we pass the baton, we sing. At the end of the day, we come together and bury the hatchets.

The Echo Bush. There is magic at The Lake. You cannot hear the echo when you yell alone, but when a group of people come together, you can call to – and hear back from – the echo in Echo Lake. There is magic in the echo and there is magic in a group of people, sitting together around a campfire, calling for the magic together.

S’morientation. S’morientation is important, no matter what the department of health says. Knowing how to avoid schminjury is always a good thing. Whether you enjoy a golden brown schmallow or you are a schmurderer, roasting a schmallow around a campfire with the intent and purpose of making a s’more, is so delicious, you always want s’more.

True Connection Happens when there is no Wifi. For the past seven weeks you did not snapchat, Instagram, or tik tok. For the past seven weeks you were disconnected from your computers, iPads, and phones. For the past seven weeks you did not take a ton of photos you posed for, looking for the right one to post after using filters to make yourself look different. And you know what, for the past seven weeks you have had better connections, more likes, and the most follows anyone could hope for.

Dance in the Rain. Life is not about avoiding the storms, it is about learning how to dance in the rain. Or jump in a puddle. Or slip and slide down a hill. When it rains at camp, the fun doesn’t stop, the fun just shifts to us having fun at bunk time, using our incredible indoor spaces, or even dancing in the rain.

Buddy Check. No matter what you are doing, it is always important to have buddy checks. As you go through life, take the time to stop what you are doing and check on your buddy. Are they ok? Are you ok? Are you together? It’s always good to check on your buddy. Whether you are at GS or not, it is still true, that no matter how old you are, when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

Giraffes Can Dance if they find the music that they love. Just like our friend, Gerald the Giraffe, we all can dance if we find music that we love. No matter whether it is soccer, or theatre, or rock climbing, or swimming. If you feel passionate about tennis, or music, or Stem, or art. Never stop looking for the music that you love, because we all can dance when we find music that we love.

Positivity Matters. Look for the good in every day. Look for what is going right, instead of what is going wrong. Train your brain to notice the positive things and you will see a shift in your mood. Before you go to bed at night think about all the big and small things that were positive today. I am not saying there aren’t challenges or that disappointing things don’t happen, but I am saying that if you learn lessons from the disappointments and you find motivation in the challenges, you can turn even the tougher moments into positive growth. You choose how you see the world and I encourage you to see the happiness and joy in every day. 

You are enough. All of us compare ourselves to others. All of us look at ourselves in the mirror and are not always kind to ourselves. My wish for each of you is that you can see yourself honestly, truthfully, and with kindness. Each of you. Each and every one of you, are enough. You are good enough. You are more than enough. There are so many things about you that make you sparkle and shine. When someone doubts you. Or worse, when you doubt yourself, always remember how you feel here at camp. Remember that when you are nice, when you try hard, when you focus on who you are, you are enough. And if you ever forget that, reach out to me and I will help remind you just how good enough you are.

Living 12 for 12. While for many of us we love camp, feel our best at camp, like ourselves the most at camp, and wish camp was longer than two months, the point of all of this camp magic is that we can take it with us. Living 10 for 2 wastes 10 whole months of the year. Instead, we at Echo Lake are the people that take all that we learn and feel and experience in the 2 months of the summer and bring it with us into the 10 months of the year. We can be our best selves all year round. We, as Echo Lakers, can teach s’morientation, can share warm inner glows, and can be nice and try hard outside of camp too. In fact, that is where the true magic for CEL lives, in each of us, and we can take that magic with us like a warm inner glow.

Gratitude. The final and most important thing I learned from camp, is gratitude. Appreciating what you have. Saying thank you. Telling the people you love that you love them. Gratitude is central to what we do at camp.

I want you to know that I am grateful for each and every one of you. I am grateful for the hard working counselors who showed up with love and passion in their hearts every day. I am grateful for the campers who created connections, tried new things, and fostered a sense of belonging for everyone in our camp community. I am grateful for all camp has given and taught me and I am grateful to even be a small part of what camp gives and has taught you. Remember all the lessons you have learned from camp and most importantly, remember that you can take them with you. Thank you, Echo Lake for such a special and phenomenal summer. I could not be more grateful and I am already counting down the days until summer 2024!

Love and xoxo,