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Don’t Be Afraid of This (Maybe) New Normal. We Are All Here Together.

By The Aloha Team

A group of people on the steps of Ohana's dining hall looking up at the sky.

Shelbi has been a counselor at Ohana Family Camp on Lake Fairlee for three summers. She is a member of the Aloha Foundation’s Staff Advisory Board.

This is all new. I find myself asking: Is this the new normal? How will learning in school and in life be impacted by the technologies we are all adapting to? Is it realistic to maximize my time at home and make the most of every moment to work, learn, and teach? While my hope is that everyone has the chance to first take care to feel safe and healthy, that may not be an option, and especially so now, when finding a sanctuary in a full house can seem impossible.

When I first sat down to write this blog post, I wanted to focus on our battle cry at Ohana. When we welcome families each week at camp, we welcome whatever shape comes to us. And while we try to remind our families that we are here for the good, bad, and crazy; we rarely have the opportunity to jump in and provide an ear, a voice of reason, or a worthwhile distraction. I crave the small and big moments I have championing alongside our big campers who are working so hard to love and support their little ones. I don’t have the privilege of being in the trenches during the victories and the defeats the other 51 weeks in the year. However, I do get to see families at their best, and finding the energy to help campers push a little harder, to stretch their wings a little farther, is always in my reach. I know what that pride looks like in a camper’s eye, I can already see their potential.

So, what does potential look like now, during the time of COVID-19? Working from home full time while running homeschool lessons for the kids? Making it through the day without getting on each other’s nerves? Staying healthy? Just getting by?  Raise your hand if you already feel guilty about all the things you “should” be doing?

Let’s stop right there. In a different light, potential looks very different. And in the thick of school and work it’s hard to see yourself and your family at your best, the way we see you at camp. Smiling, probably a little sandy or muddy, or both; disconnected from technology, and making memories together. Let camp broaden how you see yourself and those around you. I want to pause and think about why we all come back to camp year after year. What is it that you need the most from camp every summer? For me, camp is simple. Ohana gives me the opportunity to be loving, playful, powerful, and free. I cherish that I have the opportunity to be my best self, and I see that in others too. Being a counselor allows me to embody and observe what being a good human looks like. And this is the potential we should strive for every day.

We need camp more than ever now. We need the creative moments, the peaceful moments, the stuffing ourselves on grilled cheese and tomato soup moments. We need the card game moments, the crafting moments, and the running around crazy, muddy, and sweaty moments. There will be times for mastering multiplication and fractions, there will be time to explore Newton’s laws of motion. Do not misunderstand me though, those times don’t have to come later. In each of our camp moments at home and on the lake, there is more happening than meets the eye. Calculations happen all the time when we are cooking and baking. We can discover Newton’s third law of force in activities as simple as jumping or pulling a wagon, as well as launching water rockets. Don’t discount play and exploration, where learning is always taking place. 

In Sweden there is a saying I have heard passed around at schools, ram o kram, which I suppose the best translation in English would be tough love. But, to do a direction translation, it comes to mean a framed hug. Ram being the word for a picture frame, and kram, the word for hug. I think this paints a beautiful picture of the camp experience. Both in spirit and location. Rather than tough love at camp we have a unique environment that is a safe place for exploration. We often hear how grateful families are that they can let their kids roam the Ohana campus, exploring nature that they may not have access to otherwise. However, there is another type of exploration that happens for all ages, below the surface. It is clear for the Ohana staff when families seamlessly become one by the end of the week, and when adults and children push their limits and try new activities. We all change in indescribable ways from our arrival to departure at camp. And while it has been a while since our last departure, we can try our best to bring the camp spirit back right now.

While the trench we find ourselves in now, however deep and muddy, might seem insurmountable, think of camp and your Ohana. We may not be able to be with you, but just know that we are proud of you all, however you continue to fight on. And until we see you on the steps for evening announcements again, maybe this can be of a little help. Find all the things you love about camp on our new connections site!

And I will leave you with this quote from the late poet Patricia Clafford. The work will wait while you show your child the rainbow, but the rainbow won’t wait while you do the work.