No single experience in my youth compares to the five summers I spent as a middle-school camper in the canyon walls of Echo Valley, home to Laity Lodge Youth Camp, excepting of course the past three summers I’ve spent there as a counselor, on break from my studies at Texas A&M.
To some, that may sound like a lot of time to spend in one place, but not me. Going from camper to counselor has meant summer after summer playing ultimate Frisbee, riding in truck beds full of water (“redneck hot tubs”), floating the Frio, singing, acting in skits, dancing, and competing in Laity’s rodeo—which includes pie eating, pig wrestling, and calf riding. But that’s not the only thing that’s kept me coming back. It’s also the camp’s traditions, the nightly talks, the morning Bible study—the experience of God in the Hill Country.
As a counselor, you aren’t that much older than your campers. Still, you’re in charge now, and with the title of counselor comes the responsibility to be a role model. I admired my own counselors growing up; whatever they did, I also wanted to do. And then one day I was the person 15 girls wanted to be like. Needless to say, I was taken aback. Suddenly, everything about me—my words, my thoughts, my likes and dislikes—mattered. Now it was my turn to make all the disparate personalities—shy, confident, somewhere in between—feel comfortable, my turn to become a good listener.
As fun as being a camper was, being a counselor is still more so. Full disclosure: coming back as staff has provided a perfect excuse for me to revisit my youth under that incredible Texas sky. But with each succeeding summer, I become more of a leader too.