Last night, as I led my campers to their rooms for some much-needed rest, two of them took quite some time. Waiting on campers is no new experience – most of them like to take their time gathering their things, putting on sunscreen, walking from place to place, and talking (and talking and talking) no matter how fast we coaches like to move. It’s an adjustment, for sure, but we make it work every year. Most of the time, I have to remind my always-moving brain and body to relax; this is about fun, and even if I think things are taking longer than they should, what matters the most is the campers’ attitudes and experiences.
Last night, however, I wanted the conversation between two of my campers to continue, even if we were taking way too long and stuck in a crowd of people trying to move past us. My co-coach and I made eye contact as we pointed the two out to each other. These two campers, an Arab and a Jew, couldn’t seem to bear saying goodnight to each other as they entered their separate rooms. As I watched, I tried to separate from the part of my brain telling me to get the two of them and myself out of the crowd, to shoo them into their rooms as I was supposed to do. I couldn’t bring myself to break up the “love fest” as we tend to call it at camp when people or groups extend a hand of friendship and love and find another reaching back. I couldn’t bring myself to separate these two girls, who are already separated by so much: culture, religion, ethnicity, politics. I had, instead, to take a step back and allow them to bridge these gaps. Even if it was bedtime.
These girls would see each other the next morning before breakfast – mere hours away. It wasn’t going to be a long time, but they felt so sad. I smile to myself as I realize that’s the good kind of sadness – the sadness that comes from something great. We don’t miss one another if we don’t love one another. I would never want to see one of my campers sad, but last night the almost tearful goodnight made me smile.
The most touching part is that one of these campers had felt homesick that morning, to the point of wanting to go home. What an incredible triumph it was to see someone – someone from the “other” side of the conflict no less – wipe away her new friend’s tears and bring out the love in their hearts. In just a day and a half the two girls had formed a friendship strong enough to overcome the homesickness one felt.
These campers did not eradicate the feeling of homesickness. What these two campers did, instead – and even better – was create a bond, a feeling, and a sense of belonging strong enough to create a whole new kind of home.