Some images never really leave you, no matter how much time goes by. For me one of those images is the view driving up a hill in the northwest corner of Connecticut. All you can see is cornfields on either side, and then you get to the top of the hill and suddenly you can see for miles. You can see an open field off to the right, completely empty except for two ancient and beautiful oak trees in the middle. Even further off you can catch just a glimpse of a lake tucked away in the hills. And for some people driving up that hill, they know that just beyond what you can see, on the shores of that tucked away lake, there’s a hidden place that has meant many things to countless people over the years. It’s called Silver Lake and every summer it opens its doors to nearly a thousand children for weeklong sleep-away camp experiences. For nine years, I was one of those children.
Fast-forward 11 years. I’m in the home stretch of my fourth summer working on staff here. I’ve driven up that cornfield-covered hill more times than I can count, and driven back the other way, watching the lake get smaller and smaller until it finally disappeared. What is it about this place that keeps bringing people back year after year? What is it that causes people to send their children, and even grandchildren, to Silver Lake long after they have stopped going?
I think it has to do with the way we treat people here. In the outside world children are often bullied, abused, or simply ignored. But at Silver Lake even the most unpopular child finds a friend. At Silver Lake the adults are positive role models who invest their time and energy in the campers rather than themselves. At Silver Lake children learn that they are worth something inherently. They learn that they don’t have to pretend to be somebody to be accepted by their peers. Over and over again the campers say that at Silver Lake they can truly and completely be themselves.
As a staff member, I often encourage campers to find ways to find pieces of Silver Lake in other parts of their lives. I have found that for myself in Theta. It’s the close bonds I’ve formed with some of my sisters, and the open friendliness from some of the sisters I don’t know as well yet. It’s the willingness to change plans last minute to catch a meal with a sister, or the commitment to scheduling meals weeks ahead of time, and then following through with them. It’s the way sisters can disagree radically with each other and even argue with each other, but always with respect and an acknowledgement that differences don’t break apart sisters, they bring them closer together.