"Let the gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you. Then, it will be a really good day." Louie Schwartzberg
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Camp Friends

posted by Susan Dominikovich on , ,

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There is a special type of friend.  They are the ones you meet at an event, camp or conference with whom you connect over shared experiences.  Those experiences may be joyful but may also be painful.  In sharing them, you become a community together for a short space of time.  Then you both move on to your own lives, your own day-to-day existence and while you may stay in touch electronically, you see each other rarely.  I call them Camp friends. 

I never went to camp as a child but I do remember making friends with other children while on camping holidays with my family.  She would be that little girl who would look out for me first thing in the morning as I looked out for her and once found, we would be inseparable for the rest of the day as we explored rivers, creeks and forests together.  The camp friend would be similar except you would go through the camp activities together and possibly even share a bunk together, so you were literally inseparable, day and night.  You would be bound by shared experiences and the tears and hugs on leaving day would testify to your eternal promise to remain best friends forever despite the months and distance apart.

I have been fortunate to have found camp friends like that as an adult.  After I graduated from university I spent 9 months at Capernwray Bible School and made a few close camp friends with whom I have remained in contact (I married one of my camp friends, but that is another story).  One of them taught me to how to have fun and let my hair down while another taught me how to be slightly rebellious (beware the red-haired Scottish lass).  We have never lived together in the same city but still I know I can count on them to pray or to listen or to affirm me.  My closest bond from this time was with a Canadian girl who lives in Vancouver.  Being West Coast girls we connected over our woollen sweaters and Birkenstocks but the thing that bonded us was in fact our journey through Israel with a group from the Bible School.  I felt a little lost in this strange country even though I was with a group (I have never really been a good traveller) but within a matter of days discovered that she and I were kindred and that our exploring the Mediterranean and shopping in the old city markets of Jerusalem were much more intimately enjoyed together.  Twenty years later and although we have lived in the same city for a short time we have long since been separated by miles long and oceans deep.  Still, after all this time, our husbands are nearly as close as we are and I know that when we see Kelley and Doug again, our conversations will be long and intimate, as if we have never been apart.  I am so looking forward to it.

The thing with camp friends is that when you see them in real life, outside of camp, you never know how it might go.  Without that environment of activities and experiences together, without that sense of enforced community, you run the risk of discovering you may not actually have anything in common with your camp friends.

In March this year, our family went to Easter Camp at Totara Springs and we made camp friends.  It was actually our Sam who became friends with their Isy which eventually brought our entire families together.  We had a lot in common:  families of 6, music, and on-line shopping (he's the software developer, I am the shopper--a match made in heaven!).  At camp it was a thrill to see our older children disappear together and also to share meals and social times together with them as a family.  Paul and I were sorting through some issues we had about family and community and as it turned out, the camp and its speakers ministered to us massively.  This family, our new camp friends were also a big part of a lot of healing that took place.  

Back home in Taranaki I was very grateful for our camp friends and I missed them, but was also realistic that their friendship may have been for a specific time and a purpose.  Perhaps they were used by God to show us that we can find the community we desire in unlikely places even if they weren't actually going to be that community for us in the long term.  So it was with some surprise that they invited us up to visit them in Auckland for their daughter's birthday in the holidays.  The timing was in fact perfect so we took a risk and said yes!  We're coming!

It was a risk because none of us knew how our friendship was going to develop outside of that camp experience.  A calculated risk because we'd stayed in touch electronically and discovered we had even more in common, but still a risk.

We had two days/nights with our camp friends in Auckland and I think the fact that we finally dragged ourselves off to bed after midnight both nights, hoarse from conversation, shows that it was a risk worth taking.  We had a truly special time with them all and our bonds are even stronger and deeper.  We were honoured to be introduced to members of their extended family at the family birthday celebration.  In fact, we were included as family.  

Our camp friends are planning to visit us in July.  I am pretty sure they don't think of it as a risk.  Hopefully they think of it as a bit of an adventure to a part of the country they haven't explored together as a family, shared with us well.  Hopefully they look forward to it as an opportunity for rest and relaxation.  Hopefully it will mean even later nights and more conversation as our bond is tightened further.  Hopefully they will feel as much a part of our family as we did theirs.

Most of all, I hope they are looking forward to it as much as I am.

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