Our most raucous nights (the SAM square dance and an all-camp game called “wild people”) is followed by our most peaceful morning, “silent breakfast.” Campers wake-up and no one speaks. Cabins are cleaned and no one speaks. Tables are set and no one speaks. Campers hug, nod, and see each other for the first time since the night before and no one speaks. Circle is held and no one speaks. We sit for breakfast, passing the serving dishes and no one speaks. Out of the silence a poem is read, a song is shared, hands wave fanatically instead of clapping, but no one speaks. Staff read letters that 14-year-old campers write to SAM camp and we take in the meaning of SAM camp that these campers share with us.
Letter from a SAM camper:
When I first came to SAM I had no idea what to expect. What vague picture I did have from the website of mostly the physical and technical aspects. I knew, for example, that there was a waterfront, weird toilet things called kybos and that we would go on trips. What I did not know, however, was something intangible almost impossible to put into words: the camp’s spirit. But from the moment I got here, I could feel it around me in peoples smiles and laughter and shouts of joy when they were reunited with their friends. I could tell this was going to be a place I would love.
As it turned out, I was absolutely right. I do love SAM. But what’s taken me a little longer to figure out is that part of what makes that love so strong is that it’s reciprocated. At SAM, we do our best to make everyone feel loved and appreciated, both through large group activities like Appreciations and through bonds formed between individual people. This love can be seen in kind gestures and heard in peoples voices, but most of all it can be felt, like a constant pulse beneath the surface of the camp.
Another critical piece of the SAM spirit that is linked closely with love yet distinct is consideration. Consideration is about being conscious of others feelings and doing our best to act in ways that make them feel better or at least not have them. As a social justice camp, SAM is accepting of all types of different people. We do multiple activities that have to do with consideration and empathy such as “identity night” and the “micro-aggression talks.” Consideration is also important on the individual level. Whether it’s making sure to use the right pronouns or trying not to make assumptions about people, it’s important. In contrast to love, which comes pretty naturally, to be considerate requires much more self-awareness and conscious effort. Awareness and effort are also are large pieces of improvement.
SAM is a place where people grow by going on trips and pushing beyond their comforts zones as well as by developing their character and identity. The camp as a whole also is always changing and growing, like how we have eliminated any terms that might offend any terms that might have been offensive to other cultures. Although SAM is already amazing and we recognize that, we are still striving to be better. To me, the SAM spirit embodies who I to be. This camp means so much to me because it is as if it has given me a little piece of itself and its spirit from which I must learn. With that little piece of SAM beside me, I will always have a solid idea of who I am and who I want to be.
Thank you SAM Camp.-SAM camper