By: Lawrence C. Harris (past Camp Jill Scott scholar/2021 Camp Jill Scott Staff)
It’s 2018, pulled aside and spoken to individually at camp by my counselors Taj and Alex, ¨ You have so much potential even at your age and when, not even if you become big in this world, we don’t want money, or anything else. Just let the world know about this moment and how important little things like this are.¨ These words have been ingrained in me ever since
This year, a year of covid, struggle, and loss, a year of new beginnings and ends, a year of so many ups and downs. My aunt had a baby during covid, I had 2 jobs and learned how to drill holes into cans to make the illusion of a drawing when you shine light into it. Some people lost family and jobs, looking at me you’d never know any of that unless I told or show you. You’d also never know I have a lot of challenges and issues in my life, so as a CIT at Camp Jill Scott I had to keep in mind the positive and negative possibilities in the lives of the campers. Provide them with an outlet to freely open up about their lives and encourage them to grow mentally and emotionally. I truly feel I did that most naturally.
This year, as I am sure you’re already aware, we had virtual and in-person days which although being more than a bit different structure-wise, we still made it work. In-person felt exactly like years before, just with a physical mask on, never an emotional mask. I could sense the fun and joy in my mind and the minds of others while there. I spoke with many of the campers and saw them blossom each day; I also enjoyed seeing my cousin and sister grow over the last two weeks.
One of the trips that stood out was going to Urban Air. Seeing the smiles on camper’s faces as they jumped and played dodgeball, zoomed on ziplines, and ate pizza together was something that I can only describe as feeling at home. A house is a place, home is the feeling. Our camp counselors also did this along with us. Getting this physical activity and opportunities to bond and socialize through our shared happiness made campers, who on the first day were quiet, now have tons to say; campers who were distant, now in the front lines. No matter where life takes them, I hope they always know they can reach out to us and that we truly do care about them.
On the last day, it was raining a bit, but honestly, nobody paid it any mind because of how much fun we were having playing dodgeball and kickball. A strong sense of togetherness is something very special to Camp Jill Scott that all my other camps did not have. Everyone plays together regardless of position, age, gender, etc. All together without anyone ¨in charge¨ in the way, most camps, school and everywhere else tends to be. We all respect each other as humans on the same planet with the same air. The only issue we ever had was campers being too excited and wanting to keep talking while at an Escape Room, which looking back, is a sign of how much fun they were having.
Even in my position as a staff member and doing staff tasks, like helping with lunches and short meetings, I never saw it as being a staff member in the sense of having to be serious and strict. I simply saw it as being a person with a little extra responsibility. We always arrived together, play together and silly as it may be for older people to dance and jump around with children–we also did that
. Sometimes all we need is to feel loved unconditionally and be silly. Seeing my typically shy cousin, now in front of everyone doing standup comedy at the talent show made me remember my past at Camp Jill Scott and the rewarding position I was now in. Ask anyone who knows me, I love to talk, often too much, and hold myself with unbreaking confidence. But, I used to be insanely shy and insecure around unknown people, and making friends was also challenging. Along with being bullied when I was younger, at camp that was never the case. Despite the things, I faced at that time, and face today, while at camp I never really felt negative matter what happened outside of camp.
I knew they still existed but having silly and happy times at camp gave me, and many others, the luxury to not have to even think about our problems because we can just push them aside for later. Try it next time you’re feeling down, call or go see a friend and ask them to sing or dance with you. It’s very hard to be sad when there’s happy music and positivity constantly around you, while you’re chanting at the top of your lungs.
Now, with Covid, and all the chaos of the last year, I see the world in a more raw way. I believe many of the campers see this as well. A younger camper even mentioned on a virtual day about the threat of global warming. However, our community and unspoken ¨ I’m here for you.¨ made those problems vanish while we were together.
That feeling was always there in our talks and time together this year and the years prior. When I began as a CIT, my goal was very simple, to give the same joy and guidance that my counselor gave me when I was the camper’s age. They made me feel excited each day, learning from them and their actions caused me to learn more about myself. I will never forget the words they gave me over 3 years ago Seeing all the smiles on the camper’s faces when I talk and play with them made me remember that exact moment and for years I’ve reminisced on it. Seeing people always smiling around me, I knew I succeeded in my mission, and bigger than me, camp yet again succeeded where others failed. Hopefully, those smiles will ease any future troubles in this coming school year, of covid, their home, and all the other things this world throws at them.
My ultimate wish is that the times together and memories of getting to know people who came from similar situations as us, like DjAktive who has gone on tour with Kanye West, Beyonce, Janet Jackson to name a few, will inspire the new generation of campers to see the potential within themselves even further than the struggles of this upcoming school year. I met a motivational speaker, Wallo267, many years ago thanks to this camp, and knowing someone with every card in the book against him, still made away with nothing but a phone and a dream. His story has led to me chasing my dream of being a jewelry designer and remembering those words of my consolers only fueled me further. Even with camp over, I know I left my mark on each kid in that room and when they also become ¨Someone big in this world”, I will be part of that reason as well as Camp Jill Scott.
How beautiful is it that even in a pandemic we pulled that off? And about that quote from, the beginning, it was my first year at camp, and the best part about that is the second they said those words to me I remember feeling on top of the world because they always make me feel like ¨someone big,¨ from the bottom of my heart, I wish to one day be like that for someone, hopefully, this year I was and will continue to be. Thank you Camp Jill Scott and everyone who made it possible.