Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Camp CommUNITY Reflection - Kris Merritt

Kris Merritt—1985
Active Duty Captain in the USAF

Camp CommUNITY is a place I will never forget.  It’s funny – though I went in my teen years (which was ages ago in levels of maturity), I still find myself reminiscing about the unforgettable experience I had there.  Maybe it’s because I refuse to get rid of my Camp CommUNITY t-shirt and occasionally run across it in the closet.  Or, perhaps, it was a life-changing experience.

When I was asked to go to this unique camp at 15 years old, I had no idea what to expect.  I just knew that my ninth grade English teacher, whom I deeply respected, touted on and on about this camp.  

When I showed up to camp and began listening to our schedules and what the experience was all about, I still didn’t know what to expect.  It didn’t dawn on me until we started singing as a group that this was going to be a very unique time.  I didn’t grow up in a church, so social singing in this manner was a culture shock for me.  Especially unique was the choice of lyrics – never had I sung anything with so much… emotion.  It was at the time kind of humorous for me, but I went with it.  

Once the singing became routine, and the team building and leadership exercises we performed became routine, something magical happened – I started to bond with people I previously didn’t know, and it was a bond that I couldn’t explain.  As the week went by, I learned about respect, leadership, love, friendship, sacrifice, integrity, confidence, and just about anything else one would wish for a teenager to grasp.  But the thing is that these principles were instilled in me through practice, not just through lecture.  

I don’t remember every detail of my experience at Camp CommUNITY, but the emotions I felt when leaving the camp I will never forget. On our last night there, I remember crowding into the main meeting room and holding hands with everyone in a gigantic circle, singing Camp CommUNITY songs, sharing our feelings toward one another with complete transparency, and lots of crying. I distinctly remember there not being a single camper who wasn’t crying that night. Seeing all the older campers (I was one of the youngest there), whom I looked up to by the week’s end, being broken down in humility and love was shocking for me.  

We all left Camp CommUNITY, but the bonds we built there kept calling to us.  None of us could go a week without seeing everyone again.  We met several times as a group, completely self-organized outside Camp CommUNITY, for months thereafter.  Something special happened there.

Well it’s many years after Camp CommUNITY, and I still recall my experience there very fondly. To this day, I still consider myself a pupil of integrity, service, and excellence, traits I hope I exemplify better today than years ago.  I want to give my sincerest thanks to Camp CommUNITY, its staff, and my teacher who recruited me.  I have no doubt the powerful experience I had there set me on the track not just to success, but more importantly, to a balanced, moral lifestyle.



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