I have a friend that works on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Though he is now just an intern, he feels that the work that he does there will eventually catapult him into a position that will allow him to change the world. His days are spent cataloguing important documents, memos that change our nation. To my friend, he is assisting in changing the world, and, in a sense, I agree.
My days are somewhat different. I clean up after boys that put half of their food on their plate and the other half on the surrounding regions of the table. I mediate arguments over whether a four square ball that hits on the line of the court is in or out. By mid-morning, I am drenched in sweat. There are no memos, except for the staff notes that announce the night’s activity and the need to make sure that campers are actually taking showers.
I, too, change the world.
In my opinion, our nation has forgotten its children. Instead, we are replacing them with small adults, with miniature versions of ourselves. They carry Blackberry cell phones, spend the majority of the day slaving over piles of homework, and interact with peers that are every bit as socially cunning as we are. What keeps me coming back to Alpine is the feeling that I am spending my summer teaching children how to be children again.
Their days are spent in activity, whether it is by playing flag football on the Team Sports Field, learning to canter a horse at the barn, or participating in the camp’s physical training program. A camper at Alpine finds little time for idleness and is fine with that. The number of broad smiles that I have seen break across boys’ faces this summer after scoring a goal in a soccer match or flying through the trees on the zip line proves it.
Alpine also believes that boys should be able to recognize and appreciate beauty. Their mornings begin with an early morning devotional given by a counselor. Set in the woods and on rock bluffs throughout camp, the devotional areas are set apart so that campers can meditate on scripture amidst the work of the Creator about whom they are reading. Throughout the day, the boys are encouraged to seek out beauty by taking a hike on the trails around camp, or maybe canoeing down the placid streams of Little River. For some campers, these are the first encounters with nature, having traded in the urban sprawl of their homes for the pastoral landscape of Alpine’s campgrounds.
A summer spent at Alpine is a summer spent molding the future. If it is one that produces a few more men that realize the importance of an active life and desire to seek out beauty in the world, I feel that judging a couple of four square games is well worth it.
Originally published in the 2010 May/June issue of Camping Magazine.