The View from the White Board: Kabeyun in the season of Thanksgiving

by Eliot Golding /
The View from the White Board: Kabeyun in the season of Thanksgiving

It’s interesting being at Kabeyun in the Thanksgiving season, and observing the feelings of gratitude it stirs in me even as camp is quiet and still. As the cold really sets in, our buildings are buttoned up for the incoming winter. Down at my ‘ancestral homeland’ of the Small Cove Waterfront, things seem very much like a tree that has shed its leaves: the boats have been put into storage, the slide and diving board have been removed from the crib, and the swim dock lifeguard tower sits patiently on the shore waiting to be returned to the water come spring.

And yet... camp in the late fall still retains an echo of what it’s like on a hot July afternoon. Exit the office and head towards Big Cove and one can almost smell meal preparations in the kitchen, hear laughter emerging from the cabins, and see a crowd at play on the Junior Ballfield. While working in the office recently, I decided to take just such a walk, which brought me to one of my favorite spots: Pine Point.

The longer I’ve been at Kabeyun, the more I’ve come to appreciate Pine Point. Even during the busiest days of the summer, it’s a quiet oasis of calm away from most of our activity areas --except when it hosts energetic games of Manhunt, of course -- and our all-camp gatherings there on Sundays are incredibly powerful points of reflection and sharing for the whole community. The other day, as I sat among the circle of benches amid fallen leaves and looked out at the lake, I was struck by an overwhelming feeling of gratitude that took several forms. 

I’ve known Kabeyun for, quite literally, my entire life. My parents brought me to Family Camp a few months after I was born and I’ve been back every year since as a Family Camper, camper, or counselor. In those 30 years, camp has taken on a variety of important roles in my life: the fun place to spend the last days of summer; the camp where I learned how to be independent and found my love for theater and performance; the job which fostered my passion for working with children; and the second, stable home I could return to year after year when parts of my personal life were in turmoil. A huge part of what makes Kabeyun so special for me is the way it has meant so many different things to me over the years. I'm incredibly grateful to have had it, and to continue to have it, as an anchor.

Our founder, John Porter, was very fond of George Bernard Shaw’s ‘The Challenge of Service,’ which we still often read at Pine Point. The passage ends with a series of lines which never fail to inspire me:

Life is no ‘brief candle’ for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

This fall, those words have taken on a new meaning for me as I begin working for camp full-time -- a rare privilege among the countless people who have developed deep and meaningful connections to Kabeyun over the years. For the overwhelming majority of Kabeyunites, camp must yield to other concerns for most of the year. Campers, counseling interns, and our younger counselors return to school in the fall, while older staff members have other jobs and commitments that demand their time and attention. Then there are our thousands of alumni, both counselors and campers, who have moved on with their lives but continue to hold a special place for Kabeyun in their memories. 

But camp does not go dormant over the winter, as there is much to be done to wrap up the previous summer and prepare for the next one. Over the course of our 98 years, the responsibility for that off-season work, so vital to ensuring we can return to Kabeyun again and again, has fallen to only a few individuals -- and now I’m one of them. This fall, I am profoundly grateful to have the privilege of adding my name to the list of those who have gotten hold of the “splendid torch” that is working at Kabeyun year-round, charged with helping camp burn brightly for our moment until, one day, we too shall hand it on to future generations. 

Finally, as Kabeyun kicks off our Annual Fund this month and signs up campers for 2022, I’m incredibly grateful for all the people who support Kabeyun in so many ways: by giving their time, effort, and money; by identifying and enrolling our next generation of campers; and by continuing to love, cherish, and preserve this special place that so many of us hold dear. As we approach Kabeyun’s 100th Anniversary celebration, I look back with immense pride and appreciation on the time I’ve spent at camp so far, and eagerly anticipate what is to come. I hope you, too, will be part of it all!

Eliot Golding is Kabeyun's Assistant Director.

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