At pre-camp this past week our Assistant Director, Adam, led us through a training on emotional intelligence.
After spending some time unpacking how we consider and identify our own feelings, he switched gears to talking about how we show up for one another and how we can show up for our campers. He posed the following question:
“Think of someone that you that you haven’t known for very long, but that you trust. Why do you trust them?”
I was immediately transported in my mind to a few weeks prior, when, the morning after our 70th Anniversary Gala the timing worked out such that I was able to sit in the green chairs with a camp friend that I hadn’t seen in over 20 years. Social media allows me to keep up with what’s happening in her life (at least on the surface level – with the major details covered) and so we were able to dive right in – asking one another to fill in what happened around and outside of the status updates.
Quite quickly the conversation deepened in nature, and we started sharing more personal details about what had happened in our lives over the two decades that had passed since we had last seen each other. We covered some of the heartaches and disappointments we had encountered. We spoke of the joy and the growth. We commiserated about life’s challenges.
At one point a few minutes into the conversation, when we were sharing about some of life’s more complicated bits, she said “I mean, I trust you. But it’s hard to talk about these things with other people.”
I nodded in agreement. I could have sat there with her in those green chairs for hours talking about all of life’s things. It was so easy – as if only a minute had passed.
I have reflected on that moment so many times since then. Because as deeply as I shared her sentiment and feelings of trust I couldn’t help but shake my head a little at how funny it was that we felt that way. We haven’t seen each other in twenty years. And since the conversation I keep trying to remember: were we even that close when we worked together? Did we talk much? Were we in the same cabin? Was I a good friend to her when we were slogging our way through hot summers together in the 90s?
Somehow, when we sat together that day, all that didn’t matter. She was my camp friend, and we had shared an experience together at ECC that made her someone I could fundamentally trust. More, I knew I could be real with her. That I didn’t have to pretend life was a pretty show of status updates and instagram photos. That time I spent with her was sacred, and if it’s another 20 years that goes by until we sit in the green chairs again, I imagine that same sweet intimacy and trust would still hang in the air between us.
I’m guessing that when Adam said “think of someone you trust that you haven’t known for very long”, that most of the staff thought of their camp friends. The intensity of the camp experience allows friendships to form in a few hours over a work project, or sharing a meal together surrounded by 100 other people, or sitting on the porch together on night duty dodging the moths. Adam effectively brought the training home, reminding us that we have a short period of time to build trust with our campers in order to ensure they have a safe camp experience. And, he reminded us, it is entirely possible to build that trust.
I’m here to tell you, it’s a trust that lasts.