This one time at camp…All about r-e-s-p-e-c-t


Megan Kneifl, Guest Columnist

When you think of summer camp, what do you think of?

Most people would answer this with canoeing, archery, summer days, water fights and lots of friendships in many different stages.

Sounds awesome, doesn’t it?

Having worked at a summer camp for five years, my mind conjures an image that’s a little bit different.

Yes, I think of all of those other things and more. But I also take into consideration the conversations being held while on the lake in that canoe, about how being afraid of something new is okay but it’s good to try new things. I think about the help that’s given by the counselor when a camper can’t quite get their arrow to stay on their bow long enough to shoot it at the target.

Helping our campers achieve success is one of the most rewarding things I do.

As a facilitator of these moments, it gives me a great sense of pride to watch children, whose names I may not remember, grow and develop new skills and abilities, physically and emotionally.

Through these conversations we as staff facilitate some intense growth in our campers, whether we’re encouraging them up the rock wall or to fall asleep at night.

Yes, my young campers, it’s okay to miss home.


Because that tells me you have a lot of love at home, and that a lot of people care for you there. They care for you so much that they wanted to send you to camp so you could learn to be independent, and have some awesome new experiences, and make new friends.

When one camper has an issue with another camper, we don’t just tell them to suck it up and deal with it.

We examine the problem, discuss why they’re having that issue and what we could do about it while remaining respectful in those circumstances.

While all of our core values (honesty, caring, respect, and responsibility) at camp are incredibly important, respect is really the heart of our interactions. All other values fall in line beside it.

Can we be caring of other people without respecting them as a human being? Or can we have responsibility if we don’t respect the task we’re performing? Our entire camp culture focusses on those seven little letters that make quite the catchy song.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me.

To me respect means that even though I don’t agree with your opinion, I don’t feel that it’s wrong for you to have that opinion.

Respect means I take care of myself, so I can then take care of those around me.

As Uncle Ben from “Spiderman” said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Whether most of our staff see it or not, we hold a great amount of power.

I can sit at the pond and read a book, residing completely in what I believe is my own little world. Yet there could easily be a camper who sees me and thinks, “She reads books for fun, and no one thinks she’s weird. Maybe I can do that, too.”

On the other side of that same coin, I might be joking around with one of my fellow staff and say, “I hate you,” and walk away.

That staff member and I know it’s a joke, but that camper across the room who I thought probably couldn’t hear me might have taken that ability to hate to heart.

Camp depends on a culture of respect the same way this world does.

Trust me, if all our presidents had once been camp councilors with me, how different our world might be!

Besides, being awesome, respectful leaders, they’d all be obsessed with teambuilding, sing a lot of repeat-after-me songs and dress like crazy people.