The Best Neighbor
Over Thanksgiving break, my family went to the movies. My mom particularly wanted to see the new movie about Mr. Rogers, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. I watched Mr. Rogers growing up, and had heard bits and pieces about his kindness and gentleness, but I really didn’t know a lot about him before I went to the movie. I’m sure you’re wondering why I am writing about this movie that came out over two months ago now, but it just keeps popping up into head when I think about camp.
I won’t go too much into the plot if you’re still wanting to see it without any kind of frontloading, but I was struck with how Mr. Rogers interacted with two types of people: first, how he talked to children, and second, how he talked to strangers. What became more clear as the movie went on is that Mr. Rogers is a great role model for camp counselors and camp staff in general.
When Mr. Rogers spoke to children, he never talked down to them. He often would find a way to literally and figuratively be at the child’s level, and would make a point to find something to help them connect to what he said. I also realize now just how much I loved learning about different jobs and processes on his show because he was so excited to learn about them himself. That kind of modeling was incredibly impactful, and I still distinctly remember how crayons are made because of him.
When Mr. Rogers spoke to strangers, he made them feel welcomed and included immediately. In the movie, one of the adult characters pushes back against Mr. Rogers’ friendliness, and Mr. Rogers never responds with frustration or walks away, he responds with patience and calm. Slowly, we see this stranger open up over the course of the movie, and we see Mr. Rogers make a point to turn his full attention to this person in need.
Not only does Mr. Rogers make everyone feel loved and included, the movie also shows how he still takes care of himself, even in the midst of holding the love and pain of so many others. He releases frustration through playing the piano, he swims every single day, he found that a vegetarian lifestyle was healthiest for him. Even as Mr. Rogers went above and beyond to care for others, he also made a point to care for himself.
Finally, I noticed over and over throughout the movie just how much Mr. Rogers was an example of Jesus. He was an ordained Presbyterian minister, but Mr. Rogers didn’t show his faith by preaching Scripture or instructing people how to pray. He showed his Christian example by withholding judgment, by finding the good in everyone that he met, by approaching each day and interaction with joy and kindness, and by doing his best to make the world a better place for children, which makes the world a better place for all of us.
Assistant Camp Director
His head on my thigh, mine on her torso, another on my stomach. Their warmth radiated and we all shared the heat. There was about twenty of us; all under the stars, packed together on a concrete slab outside of Cabin C. The vast sky had a tinge of indigo scattered through it, signaling dawn was on the horizon. We all laid there, staring up at the speckled sky, our eyes graced with an occasional shooting star that left us all in awe. No matter how many we saw that summer (probably over fifty) we were still enchanted and amazed by the beauty the night sky held.
That summer had only lasted eight weeks, but it was enough to alter my life forever. It was filled with children’s laughter, ticks, swimming on some of the coldest days, wet shoes, complaining children, bucking horses, tears, unfamiliar beetles, riddles, dressing up, many Canada games, Ranchfests, new friendships, and memories that we all will draw upon years from now. Camp Rancho Framasa, settled in the foothills of Brown County, will always have a hold on us and be the reason we have such a link to each other.
We had spent many nights outside while the kids were fast asleep in their bunks. Conversations lasted until four in the morning even though we all knew we would have to be up in less than four hours. We didn’t care. Spending nights outside, listening to the frogs whose freedom was theirs as soon as the sun went down. They no longer had to fear the stomping feet of campers trucking through their terrain. What mattered was that we were together. A community had formed right before our eyes and we did not even realize it. In a way, we were our own group. A group of kids that didn’t know each other going into these two months of heat.
A group just like I had been in many years ago when I was a camper. But instead of two months, I only had one week to make friendships. Going in alone, knowing no one, that one week of the summer would always be my favorite of those scorching months. I remember meeting new people that always seemed more interesting than myself. I remember playing Gold Rush, sprinting through the forest and avoiding roots at every turn. Those scraped knees never prevented me from making memories that I would hold in the back of my mind. The smell of the trees remained the same and making lanyards never seemed dull. It was simply camp magic.
There was no other way to describe the feeling in my stomach every time my parents took the turn down Clay Lick Road. The songs, the prayers, the people. All of it flooded back in an instant.
I never would have thought as a nineteen year old that I would have such an awakening experience. Connecting old memories with new, under a night sky that should have seemed familiar. Now, it had a new meaning. Stargazing would forever be linked to the many people who had come into my life in a time I so desperately needed it. I was looking for a reason why I was placed on this Earth and those people, those kids, gave me that muse. Things change, plants grow, people learn. All of this was true. Though camp was almost unchanging, eternal.
And as I lay there with the weight of his head on my thigh, comfort surrounded me. No feeling of loneliness crept into my bones. My focus on his laugh, the movement of her stomach on the back of my head as she breathed, the stray arm draped across my knee. We were close, we were bonded; connected by the stars that burned so many miles away. The summer had only been eight weeks, but it had felt like a lifetime.
Summer Staff Member, 2019
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