True love… a Valentine for camp

Sometimes campers say it best… I loved getting this “Valentine” in today’s mail. Jane–

Dear Jane,
Hello there! I hope you, and everyone out in Hunt, are doing well. I have been thinking of you all lately! As Valentine’s Day approaches, I find myself extremely preoccupied with the thought of camp—all those hearts! 🙂 Of course, not that camp is ever far from my mind!Image
I want to take the time to really thank you, and Monique, and Meghan, and Dick, and all the counselors and campers who have ever been a part of my camping experience. It seems sort of eminent to me that I let you all know this, before summer comes and is over in a flash. I’m a bit nostalgic, I suppose! But only such an amazing place can create such strong feelings! You all have created someplace that I can call home and know that I can always come back to. My best memories, and friendships, have been created in that home. I have been opened to so many new experiences, my comfort zone has been stretched a little, and my capacity for love has multiplied far greater than I knew was possible. But most of all, in the course of my camping experience, so far, I have discovered my true sense of self. I know I am already one of strong opinions and values, but the opportunities you get here only strengthen those. At camp, you learn the value of love, the meaning of genuine trust in others, and how to let go of worry of judgement. You can be anybody you want to be! And that is something I have found solely at camp: I have never had to worry if there are any consequences in being myself. Knowing that is almost freeing—the kind of thing that makes you want to just jump for sheer joy! Likewise, you are tested, pushed, probably forced to do some things you don’t particularly want to do, but also you are given a little room to breathe and figure out what is truly important to you. All of these experiences helped me to realize how I “tick”, so to speak, what drives my soul, and what makes me genuinely happy. Without my six years at The Heart so far, I don’t know if I would even know about these aspects of myself, or be a fraction of who I am today. Camp has molded me into somebody whose identity and character I am proud of. To me, that is irreplaceable.
ImageEven though being strong within myself is vital to me, and I am so thankful I developed that, it actually is not the part of camp I value the most. I think the amazing capability of unity we have as a camp would have to trump it. We all come as separate and individual people, with vastly different personalities and interests, sort of like pieces of a puzzle! And throughout our camping experience, we all figure out how to fit and connect with each other and become united under similar experiences and morals. But the beautiful thing is that as we form this uniform whole, we become a more brilliant and unique version of ourselves as well. Ah—so wonderful! Something like that can only happen at a place like camp. Nowhere else in life can you experience anything truly like it! It is an understatement to say I am glad to have become my own distinct piece of the Heart puzzle.
Now I know I still have another summer here. But it struck me as extremely important that I take the time out of my life, before (my time as a camper) is all over, to reflect, and appreciate, and to let you all know how imperative this opportunity called camp has been for me in my life. I am lucky, honestly, it’s been a blast! I know my 16th year will be an incomparable experience, but I am actually so curious as to how anything could be better than the time I have already spent at camp! I guess we will just have to see, won’t we? 🙂
Thanks again, everybody, for being a part of my life! I hope y’all have a happy Valentine’s Day! See you this summer! 🙂
(camper’s name omitted to protect her privacy)

About the Author

Jane Ragsdale

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Jane Ragsdale (Mrs. Dick Howell) is the director of Heart O’ the Hills. She was a Heart camper and counselor, and served as program director from 1978-87. She has been one of the owners since 1976, and director since 1988.

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