Jackie Roher spent 8 years at camp including being a proud member of the 2005 Dorm. She returned to Camp Towanda this summer after 6 years away from her summer home as the Assistant Girls Head Counselor working along side Amy and Lisa. She shared these reflections of her time at camp.
Shabbot Shalom, and good evening. I’d like to thank Mitch, Stephanie, Bob, Amy, Lisa, and Michael, for offering me the opportunity to speak to you all tonight, on this night before Visiting Day.
Time certainly has flow, hasn’t it? Three weeks ago, some of us had just arrived from Florida, some of us we were having goodbye dinners with our families, and some of us were nervously pacing the bunks, wondering how in the world they were back here at camp, anxiously anticipating what the summer would have in store. Seeing as this was my first time back at camp in a long time, I was scared. What if I forgot what camp was like? What if I couldn’t make it? Would it be awful if I called my mom to pick me up? Had too much time passed since I was last here?
15 years and three weeks ago, I was in a similar state of nerves. I was about to start my first summer, as an Inter, going in without knowing a soul. I remembered my stomach in knots, and that first ride to the bus. I remember second guessing my decision to come to camp, and I remember watching the confidence of the older campers as they barely waved back to their parents as they ran to grab seats with their friends. There’s a lot about that summer that I can recall; my first friend, my first counselor, all of Blue Slytherin Olympic Sing. I even remember the Club boy and Dorm girl’s sermons, and the feeling seeing them behind the podium; happy, confident, and connected to camp. Something about that connection has stuck with me over the years, and has transcended both time and space to keep camp never far from my thoughts. In those moments, I knew camp was special, and I became determined to figure out what that magic ingredient was that made it so.
As we’ve reached our halfway point this summer, I’ve thought about how important time is here. Without it, we’d have no idea of when to go to activities, to lineup, to lunch. Outside of camp, we’re constantly counting down the days until we can be back here together again. As you get older, time seems to move a bit faster than it did when you were a kid, and we seem to always run out just when we need a little more. Ask any Dorm Girl or Club Boy, it becomes more valuable the less you have.
Looking back, it feels as though no time has passed, and those 15 years that have passed are nothing but a blink. In reality, I’ve grown up, graduated from college, moved away from home, and have started to carve out my own life’s path. I have failed at some things, and have found successes in others. I’ve learned that every experience, good or bad, has helped me navigate life’s ups and downs. This path has led me right back here, to my favorite spot, in my favorite place, with old friends and new ones, where I’m still searching for that magical element that has drawn me back like a moth to a light at main basketball.
During my time away, I’ve maybe found some potential answers. In the face of our dwindling days together, as time begins to run out, we can always make time for each other. The reason I remember that first summer so vividly was because of the connections I made, and the love that was shown to me, a first year, who knew no one and knew nothing. This connection is something that I instantly recognized, and knew even all those years ago, that I wanted to help make happen for others, campers and counselors alike. This realization has been like a guidepost in my life, guiding me towards a professional career where I can help others recognize the power and impact that connection can have. But, this magic doesn’t work unless we make the time to do it. Make the time, make the effort, to talk with each other, to sit near someone new, to reconnect with someone from your past. Yes, it’s scary, and yes, it may lie far outside your comfort zone, but it’s the only way to extend this limited time that we have together.
I’ll leave you with this. As you walk back to the bunks tonight across Skyview, take a moment and look up. Perhaps 15 years from now, you’ll remember what the sky looked like, or your excitement about seeing your families tomorrow. What I can guarantee is that you will remember the people that helped you love camp, in big ways or small. I can also guarantee that there is never an amount of time too long to return to camp. After all, you can always come home. We’ll have a seat waiting for you, right next to me. Thank you.