Welcome to Generation Camp

Tisha Bolger, ACA Board Chair
May 2015

I live in Minnesota where the season’s changing is often dramatic and spectacular. One day it’s ten below zero and the next 65 with bright sun and birds gleefully singing. And although we are all thinking about camp all the time, this is the time of year our list of things to do acquires a sense of urgency. Spring for me is also a time of reflection, to ponder the past and plan for the future.

This winter my longtime camp director and mentor passed away; she was 103 years old. She led an amazing life and had a huge impact on children, young adults, and adults from around the world. Those of us who remember her know that one of her best qualities was her ability to make everyone feel welcome. The first time I came to camp and every time after — when I got off the bus, walked through the gate, or came by for a visit — I felt like she had been waiting for me and now everything was as it should be. As a young camp counselor I learned how important that first step into camp was, to those there for the first time and those who were there for the 100th time. I learned by her example and from the counselors who were older than me, and the camp doctor who was older still. When I recall how warm and safe I felt when I stepped onto camp property, I realize it was because everyone around me was authentically rooting for me — they were all truly glad I was there.

When we take that first step into camp, each of us becomes a special part of “Generation Camp.” Camp is a great example of a community where all generations grow and thrive. The differences between Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials get attention because they can cause stress, discomfort, and frustration, but at camp our multigenerational community is a source for creativity and productivity.

Camp was my first step toward understanding the differences in each generation’s frame of reference, values, communication style, and other characteristics, and helped me to acquire generation appreciation.

Camp communities embrace the diversity of the generations, appreciate each group for its strengths, and learn to motivate and manage each group with grace and gratitude.

I didn’t know when I went to camp for the first time that I would meet one of the most influential people in my life when I was nine and she was 54, or that a friendship would develop when I was an adult. It was a gift that I cherish.

As camp staff, you are truly welcome at camp. Likewise, you have the opportunity to welcome campers and to introduce them to the wonders of Generation Camp — which will teach them what a multigenerational community can accomplish and provide.