My travels this week took me from Sawtooth, after the week of elementary camp, to Wallowa Lake for a couple of nights. As I write this I’m finishing up at Wallowa Lake, and then I’ll be heading on to Suttle Lake to see the staff engaged with elementary-aged campers. When I left Sawtooth, I was able to drive through Featherville this time, because the road was finally open after a couple of years of being closed.
After I experienced two different sites (Magruder and Sawtooth) and three different events (Sr. High, Middle School, and Elementary) I have been pondering the word resilience. Through a variety of experiences, I have come to believe that we are more resilient than we give ourselves credit for, both individually and as a species. Our daughter, Megan, has been one of my great teachers around this. And every time I am at camp or our retreat center I am reminded of resilience.
Some of that resilience is found in the ways that plants and animals demonstrate their flexibility and persistence through thousands of years of adaptations and living in relationship to other living beings around them. But one of my consistent images of resilience is not a living thing: it’s the Old Lodge at Sawtooth! From the first time I saw this building, with its name and support posts propped against the building, I have been in awe. This feeling comes from the knowledge that many winters the snow piles high upon the roof--and yet the roof bears the load! Each spring when the staff or site team members get up to the site to look around, I wait for the report that the building has finally collapsed. So far, it has not. To be fair, one part of the building is no longer standing but what remains is steadfast in its witness to resilience.
At camp when we talk about challenge by choice, we often use the example of our standing in the center of three concentric circles. The inner circle, where we stand, is called the comfort zone. The next circle out is the stretch zone, and outside of that is the danger zone. We encourage campers to step from where they are most comfortable to a place where they are willing to be stretched. We are there to help them when they realize that they have stepped beyond the stretch zone to the danger zone. This exercise helps them see that they can stretch themselves, but that stepping into the danger zone can restrict some of what we hope they will learn because fear takes over.
We hope that this is a framework that they will use beyond camp in their everyday life, trusting that they can be stretched and learn wherever they are and in whatever they choose to do.
There are other episodes in our lives that we don’t get to choose – a pandemic, for instance, that will likely take us out of our comfort zone and, depending upon who we, are move us to the stretch zone or move us out into the danger zone. Having been through the exercise of identifying those things that we choose can actually help us deal with those things that we do not choose, but which come our way. It is almost always more fun to be stretched by the things we choose rather than the things that are forced upon us. But in both cases I believe that our resilience is strengthened, and we are able to assist others in becoming more resilient by sharing what we have learned when it comes our time to invite them to step from the comfort zone to the stretch zone.
Here are a few questions for you to ponder this week. I would love to hear your thoughts about any of them. Drop me a note!
See you on the adventure ahead,
Rev. Todd Bartlett
Executive Director of Camp and Retreat Ministries
*PHOTO: The Old Lodge at Sawtooth (Todd Bartlett).
We are thrilled to share with you that one of our own campers, Alysia Downs, has become the director of Camp Lakeside, a United Methodist camp in Kansas. Alysia grew up in the Oregon-Idaho Conference. She spent time at many of our sites as the daughter of the Reverend Carol Thompson, who served churches and other ministries in our conference, and was the dean of many different camps over the years.
If you would like to send your greetings to Alysia she can be reached at: email@example.com
*PHOTO: a badger at Sawtooth peeks out at the camera (Mike Pletcher).
Resilience often happens in community. When the Collins Retreat Center deals with a kitchen staffing crisis (due to an injured chef), it's our community of volunteers that gets us through and helps us continue to serve our guests. When campers are homesick or feeling scared or inadequate, it's our community of trained counselors and staff who offer the tools and support to guide them through. When a pandemic dries up nearly all of our income streams, it's our community of donors that step up to keep our ministry strong. Oregon-Idaho has today one of the best and healthiest camp and retreat ministries in the country, and it's not due to a lack of challenges! You have helped to make us resilient. Thank you for being our community.