What I did Last Summer
I remember a young man, Michael, and his first year at camp. It was obvious that he really appreciated being there given that he never had the opportunity to attend before. It was the last morning of our camp and close to the time for school to start. I generally get up earlier than everyone else, and I was in the cook tent preparing breakfast when Michael appeared. We struck up a conversation about some of the different things we had done and learned at camp. I asked if he was looking forward to going back to school, and he surprised me with what he said: “You know, Dan, yes I am. I really look forward it to it this year.” I was a little shocked because most boys aren’t looking forward to going back to school. I asked him why and he said, “You know, Dan, this is the first summer ever that I’ve had anything to do. Most of the time I’ve never done anything. This one summer has been wonderful because of the camp. When I go back to school, one of the things the teacher always asks is what did you do this past summer and before I’ve never done anything, so all I had to say is I didn’t do anything. It won’t be like that when I go back now. I can tell them about the days in the mountains, the cool nights sleeping in a tent, the summer rain storms, the times around the campfire, eating camp food, catching and cleaning fish, hiking through the mountains, and learning about the outdoors and about life.”
I was so glad he was able to share that with me, and I was hopeful that the other boys and girls would have those same thoughts and would be able to share their camping adventures with their friends and teachers.
RC…for soda pop or Respect & Cooperation?
Soda pop is a big part of a young person’s camp life, it’s a real treat, and RC Cola is the soda we use at camp. The reason we chose RC Cola is for:
R – respect and responsibility
C – cooperation and constructive choices
We find that children are so open to talking, especially while outdoors, and during those “teachable moments” while hiking or fishing or just sitting around the campfire, we like to teach them about respect for themselves and each other; about cooperation with everyone during their camping experience as well as their day-to-day encounters with their parents, teachers and others in authority; about responsibility to take care of the forest and land around them; and about making constructive choices instead of destructive choices in their lives. We send a can of RC Cola home with each camper (in an Arizona Outdoor Adventures’ coozie) so that whenever they see it in their room, or in a store, or in an advertisement, they will be reminded about Respect, Responsibility, Cooperation and Constructive Choices and learn to implement them into their daily lives as they grow and mature.
Taught By A Trout
Fishing is one of the most popular highlights of our summer camping adventures. Almost all kids want to fish, but during one particular camp, the entire group of boys and girls were eager to fish – and not only to go fishing, but they wanted to catch fish, especially Omar. He was a young fellow around ten or eleven years old, and Omar longed to catch a fish in the worst way.
There was a problem though – the weather. Big Lake is our preferred spot because the fish are bigger, but that day it was cold and windy there, not conducive to fishing. Various alternatives were discussed with the group, such as trying a couple streams down in a canyon, out of the wind. But Omar insisted he wanted to catch a BIG fish, so Big Lake it was, despite the wind!
There was a particular point at Big Lake where we had landed some nice fish earlier in the season. I told them about this spot, but explained that it would be a three-quarter mile hike in the cold wind, and it would require some fortitude to manage it. But they decided to go for it, and off we went!
We passed a couple coves on the way out, but trekked on to our goal at the point. The wind was howling out of the west and headed straight across the lake, right into our faces. Fishing was difficult. We eventually got the fishing lines out, and about 15 minutes later, with no action, most of the group began to get restless. They walked around, looking under rocks to see what could be found – another very popular activity of kids when outdoors. I noticed that Omar was torn between going with the others and continuing to fish. I mentioned to him that if he really wanted to catch a fish, he would need to stick with it, but if he stayed and put his mind to it, he would probably catch one.
The rest of the group tried fishing at a cove south of us, but Omar stayed on and persevered even though it was quite windy. And sure enough, after awhile, the fish began biting and Omar caught a fine fish! He was so excited! Of course, when one person lands a fish, everybody runs over to see it and the excitement rubs off. They went back to fishing again, but only for a few minutes, and they again tired of it. But not Omar! Omar had learned that with patience and commitment, he could reach his goal, and maybe even catch another one. We continued to fish and, of course, Omar caught a second fish – another nice once, too! The longer we stayed on that point, the more Omar wanted to fish, and we caught even more fish that day.
Omar learned a great lesson that day. He had a desire to catch a fish, and he hiked out to a spot in cold and windy weather. Though the other kids went off to play, he stuck with it and he was the one who met his goal by reeling in a fish, and he even exceeded his goal when he landed more than one. He finished his day of fishing and left camp learning a valuable life lesson.
But the lesson wasn’t just for Omar. We all observed and talked about times in life when effort must be put forward in order to do what we would like to do. In most cases, the conditions make it difficult to persevere and push through, but if you stick with it, success may follow. What a great lesson for young people to learn and think about, and many similar lessons are learned while we are in camp working and playing together. We have met our goal and are rewarded when Omar and all the young people in our camps are exposed to life lessons during their Arizona Outdoor Adventure.