The Blog of the West Wind

The Blog of the West Wind

The more things change...

Monday, February 11, 2008/by Chuck Mills/Go Back

This fall I re-read Alvin Toffler's Future Shock, a book that is almost forty years old, but that in many ways still rings true. A lot of what Toffler talks about is the accelerated rate of change in our culture and its impact as a stressor on the human psyche. And of course, I thought about Kabeyun. If you read my appeal letter for the Annual Fund last fall you'll know that change has been on my mind.

With the exception of the office building, a new cabin and a remodeled kitchen, a slightly larger dining hall and a new trips shack, all changes that took root around the celebration of Kabeyun's 75th anniversary in 1998, it is still the same camp I ran around in as a kid through the 1970s. We do more kayaking now than we did in the 70s and before; we rock climb and we have a challenge ropes course now.With the exception of a couple of unsteady years in the early 70s Kabeyun has only really known four directors, and one was John Porter who conducted camp himself until the early 1960s. With the stability of administration has come also a stability of philosophy and mission, maintained by a caring board of trustees since the inception of the Porter Foundation in 1973.

To sense other changes one would have to look very closely, and spend more time with us. At this level I think more in terms of strengtheners than changes. The physical plant is maintained to provide a safe and comfortable environment; equipment is continually updated. We know more and more about how best to work with kids; how to meet their shifting needs over time. Our counselors are sensitive to the challenges kids face during their school year; our staff training program stays current with changing demands of our culture. And as we begin to anticipate our 100th anniversary, we are taking a close look at several areas of need in the near future: improving the stage and backstage areas for the drama department; an improved woodshop; a remodeled photography shack.

So, is Kabeyun still the same camp? Just ask anyone who has visited after time away, be it five or forty years. Their comments consistently note a sense of coming home: That feeling in the gut as we make our way down the camp road through the mottled forest light on a road still strewn with pine needles; the view of the waterfront — Town Class sailboats coming and going, swim lessons, canoeists and snorkelers; the Lodge and its stage, the cabins, the junior ball field; Pine Point and Charcoal Ceremony. Often, a visitor from as far back as the 1950s will meet a familiar face, too. The overriding sense? That nothing changes. Far from stress caused by the challenge of adapting to accelerated change, this knowledge brings comfort, even relief.

Our campers feel the same sense of comfort every summer as they continue to return. Kabeyun is a place they can count on. I don't need to take more space here to describe for you the pace and fragmented nature of their lives as they navigate the world of school and sports; music and dance classes; social networks – in person and on the internet; and as they attempt to filter the terrific avalanche of information and media that assaults their senses on a daily basis. It really is different for kids today than it was for us – far more different than it was for us relative to the world of our parents. Future shock? These kids are living it now. Maintaining Kabeyun is such a way that it can grow ever stronger without losing the heart or the meaning so familiar to so many remains our first and best priority.

I'll say again then, when I am asked this year, as I am asked every year, "What's new?" I will enjoy the comfort in my response when I say, "Not much of anything at all. Isn't that wonderful?"