At the beginning of the week at the camp I worked at, we'd have kids choose three activities that they'd go to each day. These ranged from climbing to canoeing to riflery, and after we presented the activities to them, we'd give them the chance to ask any questions. Usually, these ranged from "Are we canoeing in the water?" to "What if we don't want to do anything?" But in one case, a 10-year-old kid stood up and asked "Are there any classes for atheists? I'm an atheist. Are there any classes for atheists?" Later that night, one of the eight-year-olds in my cabin asked me what an atheist was, and I told him, "It's someone who doesn't believe in God." And I left it at that.
That was a mistake.
Watching a dozen eight-year-olds from various spots in suburban North Carolina try to suddenly grapple with the idea that there might not be a Heaven, and that death is just IT for them, is fascinating. Some immediately deny it, and some are very, very intrigued by it, only to forget about it when they learn that a pool is nearby. And some tell their parents at the end of the week that they now know that Jesus isn't real. And who gave them their lessons in the futility of theism? By that point, they'd completely forgotten that a kid had stood up and asked about the possibility of an Atheism Hour at a summer camp, but they definitely remembered the time their counselor passionately condemned their eternal souls.
"The cabin had a great time swimming in the lake yesterday! Also, they might be damned."
Kids are going to spend the week with other kids their age who weren't raised the same way. And with that comes the possibility that they're going to be exposed to, for lack of a better term, certain viewpoints. And these viewpoints will drastically alter the course of the camp, whether they be the viewpoint that fart noises are best delivered en masse or the viewpoint of a 12-year-old who has "seen a video where people do it in the butt." There is nothing that shatters a small-town fifth-grader's reality faster than learning that the butt is not just an export station.
Camp counselors do their best to make sure that kids have, at the very least, a mediocre time at camp. They fail sometimes, but unless they're bags of sentient turd, they keep good intentions in mind. So if you look back and wonder why you had a miserable time at camp, consider that maybe it wasn't the counselors who caused it. Maybe it was the person that paid for your trip.
And that's why whiskey was invented.
Daniel has a blog.
Discover more ways parents bungle their way through parenting in 4 Things Kids Never Learn (Because Parents Teach Them Badly) and find out why some camps are truly terrifying in 5 Realities Of The Rehab Camp My Parents Paid To Kidnap Me.
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