Slam Dunks Then, Slam Dunks Now

by Justin Felder, Camp Coleman Alum

There’s a lot I remember from Coleman. Rope burns, trip days, the rules we never under any circumstances broke; but one thing I really remember, a feeling I really remember, was hearing stories from my peers and, better, from the counselors.

Right now my job is telling stories. I’m a sports anchor and reporter in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and while talking about slam dunks and coaching changes is an integral part of my job, I like to think that the real goal is telling stories; specifically, stories about people. Sports just happen to be involved, too.

Justin and Bobby at the URJ Biennial in December 2013

Justin and Bobby at the URJ Biennial in December 2013

I remember those stories at camp well, especially sitting on the porch, maybe in the afternoon but all too often staying up late, hearing stories from counselors. I mean, these were big, they were about life: these counselors were 19, 20 … they’d seen things, man. I remember hearing from Israeli counselors about what their lives growing up were like and stories about when our counselors were campers themselves.

There’s a special feeling there, I think. It’s like how I might not be able to remember a specific prayer or reading from services, but I remember Bobby or visiting staff weaving anecdotes from in front of a usually-paying-attention group.

I also remember as a staff member, when Bobby had all the male staff get together in the new art room (*though he has since insisted it was in a different location … which would kind of prove my point, right?), telling tales from their lives, their camp experiences. I remember that night motivating me as a counselor, making me realize the impact I could have on campers of my own.

My job asks me to tell a lot of stories much, much less compelling than these I listened to growing up, at Camp and in NFTY events. They can’t all be winners. My hope, though, is that some get through to folks on the other side of the TV, make them think, make them laugh, make them change just slightly the way they look at a small part of the world.

My appreciation of the power of words, the power of sharing experiences and the power of listening came from my time at Coleman. Even if much of the time we were supposed to have been asleep hours earlier.

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