In the spirit of the Dead Poets Society, there is a neat tradition at my old camp that I feel is truly fantastic. Just as in the movie, our camp’s “Dead Leadership Society” is a way for the many dynamic personalities in camp that have come before current generations of staff to merge their memories and experience from the past with the drive and energy of the future. Each summer during our Unit Leader training, our Unit Leaders, Directors and various camp leadership, would huddle together late one evening and read letters of advice from those that have come before them. The power, inspiration and magnitude of these messages are felt by each and every leader in that camp.
Shortly after leaving this camp, I was asked to provide my own ‘Dead Leadership Society’ letter. This is an excerpt of a letter I submitted for this program:
To The Greatest People In The Entire World:
I truly believe in you. Right now, each of you in this room are the greatest people in the entire world. In just a short period of time, staff and campers will be looking up to you for guidance, instruction, leadership, laughter and perspective. Regardless of your position, you’ll make lasting impacts on thousands of people this summer. You’ll alter the course of people’s lives. You’ll inspire kids and staff in ways that you never imagined. Someone, somewhere is going to change what they want to “be” as a result of you this summer.
This is power. True Power.
And society does not classify this as a ‘real job’.
While you read these words and the other letters throughout this devotion, I want you to take a moment and look at those around you. Chances are that 365 days from now, they’ll be a slightly different group of people taking part in this devotion. This moment is yours….all of you are together for one summer to lead staff and campers. All of you are together to impact their lives. You’ll never be together fully again. People will move on after this summer, take on new roles, and further their journey in whichever way it takes them.
Embrace these moments. Embrace this summer. Embrace the glory and honor that comes with impacting lives. Embrace the challenges. Everyone’s Camp experience has an expiration date. Live every moment as if this will be your last. Treat every opening campfire as it is the last time on earth this will happen. While you may have several opening campfires left in your time at Camp, the camper who is here for two weeks might only have 1. Give them the experience of a lifetime.
I believe in you. Believe in yourself. Make a difference this summer. I wish I could tell you that making a difference is easy….unfortunately that is not the case. Making a difference sometimes comes at the most inopportune times. You might find yourself tired, wanting sleep, or simply time alone, when that moment comes that requires your attention. Embrace those moments, life is waiting to be impacted at that time.
As I write this little letter, I am thinking about my own past summers at camp. I’m thinking about the 1st year Counselor who was so nervous to be working with teens flourish into a leader amongst her peers today. I’m thinking about the little girl who grew up at camp dreaming of being a director and excelling in that role today. I’m thinking about young counselors thrust into the role of a Village Chief mid-summer and providing several more summers of leadership. I’m thinking about the 16 year old CIT who was hired as a Nurse’s Aid for 4 weeks climb his way into the Director of Camping Services position. All of us are on a journey and where it goes, only you can decide. Think about your summer. Think about your staff. Think about how you can shape lives.
The camp is waiting for you. Treat it with care. Choose right over wrong, ethics over popularity. Save the Carrots. Choose Dumbledore’s Army over the Death Eaters. Defy Gravity.
No wizard that there is or was is ever going to bring you down.
What are you waiting for – go make your impact!