April 2020 is unlike any month in my lifetime, or most our lifetimes for that matter. It is a deeply confusing, unsettling time, when most everything we know of as normal has been halted with minimal notice, and we are all trying to establish new routines on the fly. It is challenging in ways few of us could have imagined. Personally, I’m finding one of the most challenging aspects of Maine (and the nations) “stay at home” order to be the uncertainty inherent in a lock down that does not have a definitive end date, and I know I’m not alone in this. But I know that this will pass, at some point, and we’ll go back to doing what we do – providing exceptional summer camp experiences for amazing teenagers.
What I have a harder time reconciling with, is all that is being lost for our campers and their peers. Here in Maine, the state has just called an end to the school year – kids won’t go back until September at this point. The implications for our family (with a 3rd grader) are important – academically and socially this presents real challenges. But I think these pale in comparison to what has been lost for the older students in the state. Those finishing middle school, and especially graduating seniors, who are losing the chance to experience very important, very real academic rites of passage. The legions of student athletes who have dedicated themselves to their sports of choice, only to see seasons cancelled. Theater programs shuttered, bringing a sudden end to so many hours of diligent rehearsal, or the wonderful enrichment activities – Model UN, Math Olympiad, Robotics club regionals – all cancelled in service to public health. The loss of first jobs taken to save funds for the looming adventures of college. Vital social events like Prom, and end of year parties – poignant celebrations of the crossing of the threshold between child- and adult-hood, and all the swirling, confusing, life-affirming emotional resonance this holds. All this lost, or at the least deferred. And what really gets me, that brings the lump to my throat, is the remarkable degree of understanding and gracious acceptance the students I know are exhibiting.
These teenagers are being told, not asked, to stop doing all these things that are most important to them. They aren’t consulted, just handed a decision, and asked to comply.
Yesterday, the (amazing) head of the Maine CDC, Dr. Shah, said to all those young people – thank you. Thank you for understanding the role we all play in the bigger picture. Thank you for putting aside your needs for the benefit of others, most of whom you don’t know and will never meet. Thank you for being part of the solution to a problem you had no role in creating. At camp we echo that thanks. You are doing the right thing, and it matters.
I also want them to know that even though this semester cannot be replayed, you will regain the things you have had to let go of this spring. Your communities will come back together. Opportunities will be there again, for you to seize with both hands. Parties, special occasions, graduations, sports finals, class trips, college tours…these will all come back.
And to go along with the things being lost, things newly found will remain. Patience. Tolerance, especially for those closest to you. Knowing how to bake a really nice loaf of bread, or to plant a spring garden. Gratitude for the everyday things we maybe took for granted, but now realize are so profoundly important. A deeper, truer appreciation for friends. Understanding that we are so tightly connected to our communities, and that we each can be the change we want to see in the world, but we must make the choice to do so.
Dr. Fauci said earlier this week that things won’t be the same again after this. I hope he’s right. Because after this could be a lot better than it was before. It will take all of us remembering what made this time hard, how we worked to make it better for each other, and what we learned about what matters to us the most.
To all our amazing campers and their peers. Thank you. Be safe.