Have you ever seen a dog beach? A stretch of sand with waves crashing, dogs barking, balls hurtling through the air. Dog beaches are THE place to witness pure joy, playfulness, and overall freedom. For me, Westminster Woods is my dog beach.
I’ve been coming to camp since I was an adventure camper. For some reason, one of the most clear memories I have from that first camp experience was that they had “Very Berry Kix” cereal for breakfast. For a kid from a shredded wheat family such as myself, eating colorful sugar laden breakfast cereal was a big deal. It was new and exciting and strangely liberating. So was sleeping in a tent, meeting “jungle people”, exploring the forest- all without my parents. Like a puppy being let off the leash for the first time, I had a taste of freedom.
As I grew older that freedom I found at camp seemed to have a deeper meaning. Westminster Woods became a place where I could truly be myself. As we all know, middle school is tough. I spent so much time trying desperately to fit in, be cool and make friends with the right group. But at camp none of that existed. I could dance and sing and be goofy. The environment was welcoming, the people were inviting and the energy was palpable. I still remember how a week of sleeping under the stars, taking minimal showers and searching for buried treasure in Buccaneer camp left me feeling enlightened. Just like a dog on the beach jumping around clumsily, tongue lolling, tail wagging. I was free to be me.
That sense of freedom has transformed once again as I reflect on my more recent camp years as a staffer. This time I have found freedom in my faith. Westminster Woods is a place where I’ve always felt safe to speak honestly about my relationship with God, share my beliefs, be open with my struggles and even express my doubts. Being able to be vulnerable in this way has helped me to grow as a Christian. Having the freedom to explore, challenge and dive deeply into faith in a supportive community has been an incredible experience. Like a dog that bounces through the surf out into the ocean to fetch his toy, he’s paddling through the waves, gets pummeled a bit but makes it back to shore where his owners are waiting with open arms. It’s the freedom to leave the shore, do some searching and return to a support system that will welcome you AND challenge you to do it all again.
So for me, I come back to camp for that sense of freedom. The off the leash, tongue out, fetching after toys type freedom. If you haven’t done so yet, I highly recommend you experience this at Westminster Woods at your earliest convenience... or check out a dog beach. Preferably do both then you’ll see what I mean.