I read this poem a few months back from a camp staff manual insert.
"From "What is a Camp Counselor", Camping Magazine March 1965, P.M. Ford
What is a Camp Counselor---A Poem
Somewhere between adolescence and adulthood there occurs in human development an age which is physically and psychologically impossible. It is that unfathomable stage known as "Camp Counselor", a creature undefined by psychologists, misunderstood by camp directors, either admired or doubted by parents and unheard of by the rest of society.
A camp counselor is a rare combination of doctor, lawyer, and Indian Chief. They are competent child psychologists, paid baby sitters with neither television nor refrigerator. They are strict disciplinarians with a twinkle in their eye: a minister to all faiths with questions about their own. They are referees, coaches, teachers, and advisors. They are the example of grown-ups in worn-out tennis shoes, a sweatshirt 2 sizes too large and a hat 2 sizes too small. They are humorists in a crisis, a doctor in an emergency, a song leader, an entertainer, a play director. Counselors are idols with their head in a cloud of wood smoke and their feet in the mud. They are comforters in a leaky tent on a cold night and a pal who has just loaned someone their last pair of dry socks. They are teachers of the out-of-doors, knee deep in poison ivy.
Counselors dislike the wake-up bell, waiting in line, cabin clean-up, and rainy days. They are fond of sunbathing, exploring, teaching new games, and days off. They are handy for patching up broken friendships, bloody knees, and torn jeans. they are good at locating lost bathing suits, playing guitar, and catching fish. They are poor at crawling out on rainy mornings and getting to bed early. A counselor is a dynamo on a day off, and exhausted the next day, but recuperates for the next day off.
Who but a counselor can cure homesickness, air out wet bedding, whistle "Dixie" through their fingers, and sing 37 verses of " oh you can't get to heaven".
A counselor is expected to repair 10 years of damage to Becky in 10 days, turn Terri into a woman, rehabilitate Matt allow Joan to be an individual, and help Pat adjust to the group. They are expected to lead the most prized possession of adults much older than themselves. They are expected to lead them in fun and adventure in the North-woods, even though they spend 9 months a year in cities like Chicago, New York or Los Angles; to teach ingenious activities-then they can't even spell it; to guide them into social adjustment-when they haven't found it; to ensure safety and health- with a sunburned nose, a band-aid on their thumb, and a blister on their heal. For all this, they are paid enough to buy the second text in psychology, some aspirin, some new socks, and some tennis shoes. You wonder how they can stand the pace and the pressure. You wonder if they really know how much they are worth, and somehow, you realize you can never pay them enough when, they leave in August, and they wave good-bye and says, "See' ya next summer!
While doing my online staff training before going to camp to work as a staff member this summer I remembered how important our job as a camp counselor is. I've had moments where I have had to be enthusiastic and excited and optimistic for something I didn't want to do but because "camp is for the camper", I didn't focus on myself - I focused on them and their needs, wants and desires. I have had scary moments when a child gets accidentally injured and I need to put in medical attention. I've had moments where I get no sleep because a camper is upset, homesick, or just can't sleep. I've given up food before for them, I've given up time and energy.
When I was a camper, I thought my counselors were the coolest people ever. They were funny, smart, older, and interesting. They were like my popular neat older sibling that I didn't see adult superiority and authority in - I saw them as my close friend and when they told me to do something I did it out of respect because it wasn't like they were angry with me they were giving me suggestions and advice. I loved my camp counselors and I strive to be like the ones I had. I want to be a role model for these kids.
Nothing is more satisfying than when you see a camper from summers past who recognizes you and hugs you screaming in excitements for the week or weeks ahead. Camp counselors are like fill-in parents but with a lot more fun and a lot less time. We have to get to know almost everything about a child within a few minutes from dietary restrictions, to past injuries, any of their mental health, home life, attitude, experiences, fears, desires and what they dislike and do like and then we have to act on those and not with just one child but hundreds at a time. Camp counselors are influential people who can impact a child's life for years as I remember all my past counselors from almost ten years worth of attending the same camp. Camp counselors are who that poem describes and have the most important rewarding job on the planet.