Peg Smith, ACA CEOIt only takes a moment — to change a life, make an impact, or create significance. It is remarkable how persuasive a moment in time can be to one's life. The camp experience is full of such moments.

I have often wondered why the camp experience is so compelling; why the stories told by campers both young and old are so profoundly visceral. I believe it is a result of these moments when campers are unplugged and unfettered; they are able to be present in real time with authentic people sharing in community. The sensory feedback at camp is intensified and commanding. At camp children and young adults feel alive, participatory, engaged, and fully aware that a community of people is dedicated to their success and believes they will make positive contributions.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead

Of course, the camp community has always embraced magic. Not the magic of magicians, but of rituals, symbols, language, and song. These elements combined with nature create a magical energy that permeates the camp experience. Campers arm in arm hiking or sitting around a campfire inspire the most skeptical of us. Voices joined in song or chants as campers sit and gaze at the stars above can give one chills. A single camper resting next to a tree listening to the silence may offer a well-needed respite from the demands of schedules, assignments, tasks, and timelines — a moment to hear one's own thoughts.

"Look deep into nature, then you will understand everything better." Albert Einstein

What comes of moments spent with those in a community of shared values in the magic of the outdoor world is often meaning. One learns how positive expression can bring greater understanding of oneself and others. When one learns to observe tone and hear words without the intrusion of one's own voice, the true meaning of communication can surface — perception, empathy, and compassion. Understanding others often leads to one's ability to understand "self." Call it direction or destiny; self-awareness can serve as a path to one's well-being and growth.

"It is necessary . . . for man to go away by himself . . . to sit on a rock and ask, "Who am I, where have I been, and where am I going?" Carl Sandburg

Yes, indeed, that's the camp experience: Moments. Magic. Meaning!

Originally published in the 2014 September/October Camping Magazine.