By: Rabbi Andrew Paley, visiting faculty member
The skies finally cleared after several nights of cloudy, rainy and otherwise dreadful weather to reveal spectacular stars. It was the perfect night for “faculty night zip-lining.” As I awkwardly stepped into my harness and tightened the straps, I have to admit I was glad it was dark so no one could see the look on my face; one of, “Seriously, I am not so sure this will work.” I climbed the stairs and got myself hooked in and secured to the line, when the very nice man at the top said, “ok…jump”. In what can only be calculated as a few seconds short of eternity, I gazed off into the blackness of the night trying to get a glimpse of the end of the cable somewhere down below. Not being able to see anything and having everyone cheering me on from below, and frankly not wanting to be shown up by my wife who went first (and fearlessly I might add), I stepped off the platform and went whizzing down the cable in a thrilling, exciting and fantastic ride. It was great!
I couldn’t help but to think that the zip line is a really wonderful and important metaphor for the experience our kids (mine included) have at camp,whether they are coming to the camp as first time campers, or whether they have been to camp many times over. It is a thrilling ride; sometimes a little scary, sometimes a little dizzying, sometimes it goes by so fast, sometimes you can’t see where you are going or what is coming next. And just when you are really enjoying the ride, it ends.
I know this has been the experience for many kids and their parents. Many first time campers are unsure of where to go, what to say, how to fit in, how to learn what to do and when to do it. Learning camp stuff, enough to make the days enjoyable, meaningful and most of all fun can be a bit overwhelming. Who will be there to catch you? Who will be there to cheer you on? Who will make sure you are safe and secure? Who will guide you in the right way? All these questions I and others asked on the platform of the zip-line; all these questions our first time campers ask. The answers? The wonderful caring counselors will be there to make sure we are ok, and point us in the right direction. The unit heads and camp specialists, the administrative staff, doctors and nurses and the guest rabbis,educators, cantors and faculty are there to support and guide and catch us if we need catching and provide a really soft landing.
For those experienced campers,the zip line is equally important. They too once stood on the platform, nervous to step away from the safety of the “home base” into the unknown. But they did it and they remember the thrill. They remember the confidence they felt challenging themselves to do something they weren’t sure they could. And having felt the thrill of the ride, they make the long walk back up to the top thinking, ” Man….that was cool, and I got to do it and Greene Family Camp. Thank God for that!” I ‘d like to believe that’s what they say. I know I did.