Category: Cool to Be You in ’22

How Less Adds Up to More at Camp

 

I am writing this just a few days after the biggest gift-exchanging holiday in the world. I had no less than 3 people in 2 hours tell me that it was too much. One person shared that they didn’t even finish opening their gifts that day. They started. Got hungry. Ate breakfast. Opened some more presents. Needed a break. Walked on the beach. Kids were tired. Took naps. Went back at it. By the end of the day, they still had unwrapping to do. In fact, I don’t think they ever reached completion!

Another person offered that they moved the day they actually celebrated the holiday so that it was less hustle and bustle of various family members trying to make the rounds. A third person told me that his Mom brought way too much stuff. It was over the top. His kids didn’t even know what to do with it all. It was overwhelming. I think this is all well intentioned, and like many things when there is too much, appreciation goes out the window. It gets lost or even forgotten in all the excess.

When I look back at my own childhood, I remember one particular Christmas when I scored the trifecta. I got the Barbie camper, tent, and airplane. I thought I had won the lottery! The interesting thing, though, is that my younger sister also received the same three popular Mattel items. It never really occurred to me until recently that buying duplicate sets was most likely a huge sacrifice for my parents. I wonder why they didn’t just get them for us to share? Maybe because they knew I was a bit selfish as the older sister. Having 2 sets of identical Barbie accessories would eliminate World War III from breaking out in our basement playroom. 

As an adult, I can appreciate the idea of less is more. In fact, I use that principle when building slides for a PowerPoint presentation. Less words, more images. It can be found in other situations as well. Fewer unhealthy foods, more energy. Less time scrolling gives more opportunities to read, nap, or walk the dogs. A decrease in frivolous spending is more money in the bank.

I also see how it plays out at camp each and every summer. For the 80 campers and 35 staff who make their way to County D Road come June, less truly adds up to more:

  • We have less distractions and more time to spend enjoying the present moment. 
  • There is an absence of technology which allows for real face-time conversations and interactions. 
  • We are indoors for a minimal amount of time (eating and sleeping) and that opens up the opportunity to be immersed in nature. 
  • We can only bring so much “stuff” in our trunks and duffles; therefore, we make do with what we have (and don’t waste time deciding what to wear!). 
  • We live in rustic, yet homey accommodations, where the people we are with (and an occasional spider or two) are way more important than the decor on the walls or things we own.
  • The drama closet with its vintage donations and an art room stocked with basic supplies gives us license to be creative and innovative with costumes and props for themed events. 
  • Less instantaneous (mail, for one!) means learning to delay gratification. 
  • Being conscientious of unkind words and actions reminds us to be more inclusive. 
  • The absence of fast food is replaced with more sit-down meals and sharing about your day with your cabin family.
  • Being away from caregivers and friends encourages self-sufficiency and independence.  

The list goes on and on. At camp we trade over the top for simple. Even though I am not in the Northwoods at the moment, today was a good reminder of that. Simple is good. It grounds you. We return home from camp being grateful for the little things. 

I wonder what lesson I would have learned sooner had my parents made the decision for me and my sister to share Barbie’s camper, tent, and airplane? Maybe we would have avoided having tape down the middle of our shared room at one point. Maybe I would have been more appreciative for what I did have. Maybe I would have understood at an earlier age that less is more.