When I was camper, the Xeroxed address list distributed at the end of the week was crucial. Without it, there was basically no way to keep in touch with any of the friends you had made during the week.
When I’d get home from a week of camp, sleep deprived as I was, my thoughts would immediately shift to the friends I had spent the previous week with. Even before the first load of laundry was finished I’d have my pen out ready to write my first letter. I’d write letters to counselors thanking them for all of their hard work, to the evangelist for the week to discuss the impact the sermons had on my spiritual growth and of course to the girl I had developed a crush on but was too timid to have anything but awkward conversations with during the week.
There was a beauty in that exchange after camp. But it usually didn’t last. After a few letters were exchanged, life would get busy and I’d lose touch with my super cool camp friends from places like Neptune, Port Republic and Millville. Aside from the occasional encounters at the Ocean City retreat or Mid-Winter Advance at America’s Keswick, communication was difficult to maintain.
I realize in sharing this that I’m already showing my age. As a junior high camper I’m not sure I even knew what the word Internet meant. And as a teen camper Internet was this really cool, but extremely slow thing the school library had on only three computers. I had a hotmail address I was able to check once a month if I was lucky.
A decade later (I just got an e-mail about my 10-year high school reunion thank you very much) the camper address list is more or less a camp item that has gone the way of the duck house. Instead of “snail” mail addresses, the last day includes an exchange of screen names, social networking profile names and e-mail exchanges for those of us who still use e-mail.
Without getting into a theological discussion of the pros and cons of new media — particularly the social networking sites — one of the beautiful things about the way we communicate now is the friendships we make in the summer are much easier to maintain. I communicate now more than ever with campers I meet in the summer and I’ve been reconnected with dozens of people all over the country who were campers and staff “way back in the day” so to speak.
Sometimes these glimpses into lives from my camp past are disappointing — profiles littered with profanity, sexual innuendo and other debauchery making it appear as though some old camp friends have long forgotten the Delanco altar we all prayed at — but many times it’s a joyous occasion. It’s always a blessing to find old camp friends and see that they are serving in ministry or still active in their church and with their faith. I’m constantly reminded through the power of the Internet how small the world truly is and how much smaller it is because of Delanco Camp.
My hope is that with this blog we as a camp community will reconnect with old friends and meet new ones, encouraging one another in our faith and communicating the magnificent story God writes with our lives when we seek a closer walk with Him.
-Matt Ralph, Louisville, KY