I’ve had a little over a week to rest and reflect on my experiences at camp. Yesterday was my first day back at my rather hectic restaurant job, and during my tiring shift of pouring coffee and clearing plates, I had Ultimate Peace buzzing in my head. I was walking around the restaurant in the morning feeling very confused. I thought to myself, “Why has no one offered me a high five?? Are they crazy? Not one person shook their hands at me when I brought them water… Everyone had their, dare I say it… phones out? At a meal?!” I was in shock. No, really. In all sincerity, I didn’t understand the environment that I was in. As I brought coffee and water to customers, I greeted them with a smile and a “good morning!” I was almost always ignored. Despite serving an entirely full restaurant for over seven hours, I think I could count on one hand the number of times someone’s eyes met mine.
Last year I came to camp for the first time. A lot of my life since then has been shaped around UP: both American and Middle Eastern acquaintances became some of my closest friends, and my academic thought seemed to always come back to the conflict. I was in awe of what I had somehow been a part of in 2016. Everything about it seemed so powerful and deep, and that it was solving problems.
As we walked into the auditorium and helped our campers get situated, a fellow coach turned to me and said, “What are the odds we cry?” Without skipping a beat, I turned back to him. “100%. No doubt.”
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.
In 2014, five members of the Ultimate Peace Friendship Tour came to Chicago. I came home from school for the week to help with fundraisers, events, and to show them around. Two members of the group stayed at my house – then second year LITs. I won’t embarrass them too much, but I will say this: They were young, sweet, and a little (maybe more) nervous.