The core of any camp experience is friendship.
When all goes well at camp, we find friends who will travel with us throughout our lives. I’ve been around long enough to see this happen, and been given friends who have profoundly shaped my life.
When Jennifer and I got married, a lot of Rockmont friends came to the wedding. On a Friday afternoon we played an overly competitive game of volleyball in the Mississippi summer heat, and that night they joined us at our rehearsal dinner. (below is a picture of post-vollyball game) Looking around at my Rockmont friends and other friends, all people who had brought us to that day, I was full of gratitude for the ways these friendships helped lead us to that new beginning.
Friendships make us who we are.
Throughout my life it has become clear that a well-lived life is not one of following rules or avoiding evils. It is a life made up of good friends. Friends who share a vision with you of what life is about, what goals are worth striving to attain, and which are not. In the end, friendship changes you more than you know while it’s happening. You need occasions like a wedding, so you can look back and realize how much you have changed.
During the summers of 1983 and 1984, I was a tribal director (TD) at Rockmont.
I got to work alongside Dan Davis, Barry Taylor, Mark Zeigler, and Jon Brooks in those years, and each of these friendships has been a lifelong gift. We were all friendly acquaintances before we became TDs together, but the experience of working together created true friendships.
You step off on that journey every year wondering if you have what it takes.
And then something really wonderful happens: God gives you friends who inspire you, make you laugh, share gifts with you just when you need them, encourage you when you fail, and nurture a common vision for what life is all about. If that sounds dramatic, well, it kind of is. But it’s also true!
When you come to the end of a summer, you have often changed more than you know. You will begin to look for work that will honor the kinds of commitments you shared with your friends. You look for other friends in the world who will share the same life-giving vision that your camp friends inspired in you.
And then something good can happen again: God gives you more new friends who accompany you on the next journey and make you better along the way.
I don’t see Barry Taylor and Mark Zeigler as often as I see Dan Davis and Jon Brooks. But I hope I will always live in ways that are true to the visions we inspired in one another. The work we did, the commitments we made, and the dreams we discussed back then, continue to challenge me to this day.
Those friendships have shaped my whole life.
Coordinating Director, Director of Risk Management
P.S. Mark Zeigler has now taught for decades at Florida State and is known for his inspiration and encouragement! You can read about him and even buy a mask here with his words on it, “Be Kind Always.”