Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Camp CommUNITY Reflection - David Merrit

David Merritt—1985
Active Duty Captain in the United States Air Force

Stuff I Learned:
I'm important no matter who I am, what I look like, or where I'm from. Camp CommUNITY was a non-retribution environment, which made it easier to open up and take social risks, like saying how I really feel or expressing my honest opinions about issues. The outgoing counselors set the example for being transparent and comfortable in their own skin. I caught a glimpse of how liberating life could be if it's lived with confidence in who you are and when you don't base your self-worth on what others think of you. Plenty of activities got people out of their comfort zones in a safe environment. Also, there were numerous counselor-led small group discussions that delved deeper than mere superficial talk about inconsequential matters. It taught me the importance of attempting to learn and understand who a person is without judging them. 

How I felt:
I felt a little intimidated at first because of the boldness of the counselors. There were a few “required” activities that forced each person to speak or act in front of large groups of people.  This would have been counterproductive if the environment weren’t already set with the tone of acceptance, compassion, and understanding.

What I experienced:
I experienced a utopian world of compassion and understanding.  People valued your opinion.  There was no shortage of encouragement.

How I changed:
I realized I could let my guard down and be myself, without compromise, and people would still find me just as interesting (if not more so).  It opened my eyes to the power of being comfortable with myself.

Life events relating to the camp:
Having to move to Pennsylvania halfway through my junior year of high school was socially intimidating and emotionally significant. Having previously been in an environment of adolescent strangers at Camp CommUNITY helped me adjust quickly. Furthermore, Camp CommUNITY taught me that the best (and quickest) way to engage strangers is to be honest with them and to put a priority on understanding who they were. This principle served me well during that life transition, and it has continued to benefit me as I attended the Air Force Academy and now make life transitions every few years. The value of establishing meaningful relationships relatively quickly is immeasurable, especially in the military. I have attended two separate, multi-week leadership courses in my career so far. Both courses attempted to create an environment much like what I had already experienced as a pimple-faced teenager at Camp CommUNITY.

My love for my country and G-d have continued to grow as I have matured into a man, and the time spent at Camp CommUNITY has proven to be a positive factor in this development.



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