Camp Star Trails was my first non-Christian camp experience. I felt relieved by the counselors in my cabin. In the span of almost a week, I became really close to them. That should be expected since we lived together, but there is definitely a friendship there that extends beyond camp. My cabin girls were wonderful for the most part, considering the fact that their ages ranged from 12-14. Their complaints and questions started with “When are we going to _____?” or “What time is it?” and “Can we go do this?” To which we would respond accordingly with, “I don’t know,” “I don’t know,” or “No.” As cheesy as it sounds, every girl’s relationship with each of the counselors was unique. I made my closest bonds with a pair of Spanish girls and Reyna. I saw myself reflected in Baylee, Stella, and Cadence. Baylee is a go-getter. She always takes on a challenge and cares deeply for her siblings, to the point that she would disappear so frequently we sort of knew where she would be. Stella was the smart, sarcastic, and insightful book worm who took her Harry Potter book, that she claimed to have read “68 times because I have no life”, to every activity. Let there be no confusion, she would always dominate the activities and continue reading her book after their conclusion. Cadence was quiet and sweet, somewhat how I remembered myself at her age, mixed with Stella.
My role as a chaplain was not so much a spiritual one; I was more of a listener. I bonded most with the girls who felt like they needed to be heard. One special experience I had was with Reyna. She has the quietest demeanor, but after a couple of days, we found out she is fluent in Spanish. After some days into camp, the girls really enjoyed the late night cabin time before bed. They spent the time to make bracelets or play cards with each other. It was the ideal picturesque image of a camp for everyone, except Reyna. I was translating the idea of sororities to one of the Spanish girls, which took a long time, but at the corner of my eye I saw the Counselor-in-Training, Rosalie, comforting Reyna who had been crying and looked distressed. Rosalie came over and whispered to me that Reyna had been crying about her brother she had lost to cancer. Reyna had mentioned this to me sweetly earlier that day, and how she couldn’t hang out with all the girls because she was feeling extremely sad about him. Rosalie asked me if I would go over and talk to her, since she knew we had bonded, to which I replied, “Of course.” I walked over, invited myself to sit on her bed–which was the bottom bunk and stood in a dark corner of the cabin– and told her that I could see she was upset. I told her it was okay to miss her brother, and that it is a painful loss. I also told her that if she wants to cry right now, it is perfectly acceptable. I told her that we understood if she wanted to be alone but that we cared and loved her a lot, so we wanted to invite her to hang out with us. Then, I asked her brother’s name and she told me and I asked her if we could make a bracelet with his name on it so she could wear it and remember him. She nodded and picked her head up a little. I went with Rosalie to get the beads for her bracelet, keeping in mind that this was for her brother and for her as well. Rosalie looked relieved and we went back with the beads and started the bracelet for her and gave it over to Reyna to finish. She worked quietly, sort of in her own world, as Rosalie and I talked and sat with her. Once we finished, I asked if she liked it and she nodded happily, despite the tears on her face. I asked her if she would give me a hug and she grabbed me and I told her I cared a lot about her and that she should never forget her brother. Touch is not necessarily my instinct for comfort, but in this moment, it was perfect.
I felt my Spanish steadily progress as the days went on and I became closer to the Spanish girls. It is amazing how much people will tell you about their pains, in an attempt to be saved or understood in their pain. They talked to me about the strains of their household, which I related as typical Spanish-speaking family household struggles. It’s funny how comical people are when they think no one can hear them, which is exactly how the Spanish girls acted almost every day. I told the counselors how I felt they were like my younger cousins and how I was disappointed with how the camp did not allow us to remain in contact with the campers. It definitely felt like the opposite of Christian camps, where relationships with leaders were promoted as mentor-mentee friendships.
Overall, I met a lot of interesting people, with whom I connected with differently. Camp was relieving and stressful all at the same time. I definitely enjoyed it, but I was happy for its conclusion.
A camp memory by Rita Rodriguez, 2016 Tarrant county intern.