This I Believe

Larry - Deltona, Florida
Entered on September 28, 2005
Age Group: 50 - 65
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I believe that we all have a particular place and time to find ourselves in this world. In my life it was the summers that I have spent by the shores of a secluded summer camp deep in a southern pine forest. Camp was my focal point in life.

As I watched bulldozers change orange groves into parking lots Snoopy’s words, “You’re parking on my memories,” rang true in my ears. I thought that awareness and education could teach the practical application of ecological principles to daily life. Doing so, I could change things and save our world.

So I distributed educational brochures to schools. I dumpster dove for aluminum cans and recycled newspaper while my classmates scoffed. Mom and dad scratched their heads when I put a brick in every toilet tank. The police stopped me one day though, after a friend and I tried to drive through town wearing gas masks to protest air pollution.

It all earned me a place in the yearbook, but no one really took me seriously. Classmates thought I was an eco-nut. Places I looked too for environmental jobs all wanted degrees or experienced people. I was becoming frustrated, but my parents encouraged me. My dad urged me to write and express myself. An essay won me a scholarship that started me in college. Mom suggested I work the summer at a place called the Youth Conservation Camp. So, on graduation day, while my classmates went to parties, I went to the woods and embarked on a journey that would change my life.

I learned a lot at summer camp. Spending many an evening sitting at the end of the swim dock, under the stars, I had the sweetest of communions. The cycles and rhythms of nature were illustrated so well there at camp. They helped me to reflect on everything else in perspective. The words of Emerson and Thoreau took on new meaning. I found there at camp what I needed, a connection, a continuity, and a timelessness that has sustained me. I heard the still small voice of the creation speaking and it was all real to me.

I spent four summers at camp. I even met the beautiful and precious woman there who is my wife. Today, every time I see her or look into her eyes I go back to camp.

I still love to return to that camp on the lake in the forest. I’m happy to know that young people still spend summers there. Like me, I hope that their camp experience will touch them in a great way. I love to spend time with them there at the campfire by the lake. When I do, we sing the songs and share the stories from the memories of summers past. I scan the faces aglow in the firelight and find joy in the nods and smiles, for someone who now hears that still small voice, that can speak to us all, at this place by the lake.