by Sam Stucky
I’ve been going to Laurelville since I was six years old. It was almost as routine as going to school for me. But I’ve only recently come to realize how much this privilege influenced my life. Although I progressed between age groups each summer, the traditions and activities were largely the same—which is great and is a part of what makes camp fun. But the world has limits, and there is only so many ways to do a creek hike, play mini golf, sleep up on Sunset Hill, or argue about the real origins of Chief Jacob and Split Rock.
So what is it about this place that made me, without a second thought, follow that perfect little Mennonite trajectory—be a camper, a counselor, and a director? The answer is really quite simple. Every time I visit Laurelville, from the moment I see the sign as I drive up, until the moment I realize that I’m leaving soon, Laurelville is a place where I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
Laurelville does not advance me along a career path using my math or music degree, nor does it fill my pockets with cash. But I’ve always felt that I am the most useful and that I have the most purpose in this world when I counsel at Laurelville. Campers change through the week: from stubborn, quiet, or homesick kids to awesome friends. It’s always encouraging to hear from parents that their campers are leaving camp as new kids, and always want to come back. This work, my friends, is work that matters.
As a camp participant, summer camp was a safe haven for me, full of new role models and new ways to have fun, however similar the activities might be every summer. I highly valued the individuals who counseled and directed me, who allowed me to be myself and treated me as equal. Too often, kids are treated like they are inferior. But my favorite counselors treated me and walked with me like friends, despite our age gap, which always made me admire them and value their words and actions. Because of these counselors, I now value working with youth, too. I can’t imagine the lives of some kids who lack role models and a safe space to be themselves. And often this safe place needs to not be at home.
Laurelville was and is the perfect place for this. I’ve heard lots of different definitions of what the word “shalom” means. But the best answer is this: shalom is Laurelville. The world Laurelville creates is one of the best versions of the world I’ve been a part of. And the summer I don’t come to Laurelville will be a difficult summer.
Sam Stucky is a summer camp director at Laurelville.