Building Relationships - Session 4 Edition

By Green River Preserve

So far, we had only seen a couple bugs. No bears, no snakes. It was about an hour into my Mentor Hike this morning with Liz, and we were well past the hike’s highlights. We tramped to Upper Bald, munched a couple blueberries shriveled by the late July heat, and had just crab-walked down Lower Bald. For a GRP veteran, it made for a successful morning, even though it wasn’t exactly thrilling.

But as we made our way down the mountain, I heard something special going on between the two eight-year-old campers in front of me that changed my mind.

One camper was patiently describing the wonders of skiing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

“You just HAVE to go,” he said. “If your mom won’t take you, you’ve GOT go when you’re older!”

His advice included which trails were prime, how to decipher the difficulty levels, where to go as a beginner, topped off with where to eat after a day of skiing. The other camper asked insightful questions, and responded with some helpful (if irrelevent) suggestions for how to make a fire with two sticks.

That, I thought, was the beginning of a friendship if I’ve ever seen one.

I spent the rest of the hike pondering friendship at camp. Sure, at GRP we devote a lot of effort to explain the complex relationships between organisms in the natural world. But in Two-Week Sessions in particular, campers have time to explore their social world as well. They have time to get into conflicts with each other, to experience what it feels like to forgive and move on. They have space to challenge ideas and to work together toward a common goal. After Campout, for example, a cabin group is never the same — they’ve been through a tough but positive experience together, filled with inside jokes and lasting memories.

GRP is a safe environment for campers to take on these challenges and conflicts. That helps campers seek friendship, and learn how to build a community from different individuals.

When I let my mind wander enough this morning, I finally remembered the conversations I’d had the day before. A day or two before Campout, I usually check in with each camper to hear how things are going and what campers might be nervous about. One camper told me that another camper had poked a hole in the gourd canteen he’d made in Pioneer Cabin Crafts.

“Oh, well, we had a thing yesterday,” he said, “but now we’re over it.”

When I brought up the incident to the offending camper, I reminded him that if he’d remember to be respectful of others, he might form some lasting friendships here. He gave me a puzzled look, and then broke into a smile.

“I already have,” he said.

- Avery, Hemlock Hut 1 Counselor