North Star Camp for Boys

Friday, July 30, 2021

Be Yourself

The entire camp community drooled again this morning and tonight we received all negative results! While we will continue to remain conservative with our Covid protocols, our testing protocol lets us reasonably assume that our camp bubble is free of Covid-19. I am incredibly grateful for our health team for taking such great care of our whole community and for our program team who have adapted to make this week a huge success in spite of the Covid-related alterations.

We told the campers the news as we gathered around the flagpole tonight for our formal retreat, which precedes our trip to the Council Ring each Friday. While we typically don't cheer on Friday nights, there was a big applause and a hearty roar for this great news. Then we continued on with cabin reports and the flag lowering ceremony before settling in at the Council Ring for a beautiful sunset over Clear Lake.

The theme of tonight's service was Be Yourself. Each week a counselor gives a sermonette relating to the value, and tonight Simon Crane gave a fantastic one. Please read it for yourself:
Hi everyone, for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Simon Crane. I’m currently a counselor in I-5 in my 9th year at North Star.

Tonight I’ve been asked to talk to you all about the special type of person that comes to North Star camp, and the even more special type of person who leaves each summer. We’re all very different people here, no doubt, but there are certain qualities that we all share having the common experience of camp. This is a quality that I’ve seen demonstrated beautifully by those I’ve met here, and that some others outside of camp struggle with. Everyone here has an incredible ability to be themselves in any situation.

I could stand here and give a speech all about how healthy being yourself is for you. I could talk all about how much effort it takes to pretend to be someone you’re not, and the toll that can take on your mental health. I could, and it’s all true. But you’ve heard that a million times. Tonight I want to talk about how being yourself affects those around you. It is nearly impossible to be yourself when you surround yourself with people who are unable to or refuse to be their authentic selves. It is just remarkably difficult.

My friend group for about my first 9 years of school were a ton of fun. I had really great relationships with pretty much everyone individually, but always felt like I was on the outskirts of the group. Some of my best friends one on one were hard to spend time with in the bigger group. They became different people. My friends who I could be crazy and goofy with one on one became serious and self conscious in the larger group. In situations like these, who was I to stand out as myself? It was a really hard situation to be in, but luckily I was able to get on a bus after that school year and come here.

Friends that I’ve never had to worry about, and relationships that have never faltered have all been formed at camp. I hope all of you feel that you are able to be yourself at camp, but why is that true here, and not necessarily outside? While I don’t have a perfect answer, I’ve come to understand that it’s so easy to be yourself because everyone is. Because you’re not alone in being unapologetically you. Camp is a place for everyone to explore their independent interests, to explore different social dynamics, and to form meaningful relationships. Whether you are here for the archery or the climbing, the forest or the waterfront. Whether it’s the friends you hope to make, or the friends you already have, camp is the right place. Whatever your interests may be, North Star is home to an incredible community built around exploring it. This allows for a group of 350 people living in the same place under the same circumstances to be entirely unique, and proud of it. As I got to camp in 2017, I reconnected with cabinmates like Louis, Jaden, and Jared immediately. They were the same people I’d left the previous summer and the same people I’d come to be so close with over my first few years at camp. They were familiar, welcoming, and, once again, constantly themselves. Because of this, I could be myself for what felt like the first time since the previous summer.

A few years ago, I had the chance to get breakfast in Chicago with Byck, Shore, David Cohn, and Ronan O’Byrne, a former counselor from Ireland who was in town for the weekend. Looking back, there was no one in that group who I’d known well for more than 6 months. Because of this, I was concerned about whether they were the same people at home as I’d gotten close with the previous summer at camp. My worries were completely unjustified, as we were able to recreate the carefree, humorous atmosphere of camp effortlessly. It was completely seamless. It worked only because no one here adheres to some fake persona. The people I got to know at camp and the people I had breakfast with were the exact same, regardless of environment, regardless of who they were with. It takes a truly special type of person to refuse to be anything other than their true self in any situation. It takes the kind of person that North Star welcomes in, and, even more so, the kind of person that goes home at the end of the summer.

For the last 9 years, North Star has been a place where I could come and truly explore the person I wanted to be. I could do this without pressure, without a time limit, and without judgement. Not only was this environment encouraging and nurturing, it was full of 200 other campers trying to accomplish the exact same thing. We all work towards a common goal of realizing who we are, and we all get there with help from those around us. As many of you are aware, leaving camp is a surreal experience. You are reexposed to social media, to news, to people who simply don’t understand what goes on past the arches of North Star. As you reacclimate, the pressures and judgement of the outside world begin to creep in. Every summer since I was 10 years old, North Star has been a place for me to ignore that pressure and develop into the person I want to be. I can confidently say that almost all of my progress towards that goal has taken place at North Star, with camp serving as a refresher and reinforcement each summer.

As I move on to the next chapter of my life in college, I’ve been considering the countless social circles I could choose to be a part of. As I’ve gotten closer to the school year and had the chance to explore more options, I realize what I’ve been looking for. I’ve been able to put it into words, but it has taken me until writing this sermonette to figure out what I meant. I want to be part of a group that refuses to be anything but themselves. In my time at camp, learning from all of you, what has become obvious is the importance of surrounding myself with the right people, with the right qualities.

At camp, we can be ourselves because everyone is. There’s no pressure to conform, and there is something to appeal to every possible interest. I implore everyone here to be unapologetically yourself, both in camp and out, and to surround yourself with people who are willing to do the same.
As always, thank you for trusting us with your boys. Not every moment of camp is pure joy; some have Covid-scares, storm potential or just other challenges that life brings; but we know that all of us emerge from camp better for it. 

Today's Grace:
"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving."
- Albert Einstein