Time for Growth in a Fast-Paced World






Spring Blog Series 2023 – By BSC alumnus and current associate director, Matt “Fish” Eisenman

Last summer, in addition to celebrating Blue Star’s 75th anniversary, I also celebrated some personal camp milestones. It was my 20th summer on staff and my 30th summer at Blue Star. I always loved camp; I never imagined that it would become so foundational to my adult life, lifelong relationships, and my children’s upbringing – but here we are. Often when I reconnect with friends from my camper and early staff days, they ask some version of this question: “Is camp still the same?” 

And I think about this a lot – is camp the same? In many ways, and in the most important ways, it is exactly the same. I remember staying at a hotel in town the night before camp (it was the one in Hendersonville that had a mini-golf course and a waterslide inside). Who would be in my cabin and what would they be like? Would I fit in? Would my counselors be as cool as I hoped they would be? While we now “pre-assign” bunks and the race to the front gate to pick your bed in the cabin no longer exists, life in the cabin is pretty much the same. We played many of the same games (rafterball dominated my life as a pioneer boy, and it is still the cabin game). The rhythms of camp life are pretty much the same – cabin clean up, swim, athletics, options, and evening programs. We ask campers to write old-fashioned letters on Shabbat (and most do). Color War and Zimriah are still the camp wide programs campers look forward to on Sundays.

The other core aspect that is the same is that the value of camp – the Blue Star Magic – is not in the daily activities and special programs, but in the relationships built over the course of a session, a season, or  multiple summers. The magic is in the conversations shared between bunks, on the athletics fields, walking to the dining hall, and in all of those “little” moments throughout the summer. The magic is in the connection to a counselor that helps a camper through their “homesick” transition to camp or that first break up (following that first “real” boyfriend or girlfriend). Camp time still feels like both forever and no time all at once. And at camp the real things do take time. Relationships – the lifelong ones we often talk about when reflecting on camp – take time to build. It is only after that summer at camp, and often over many summers, that we leave camp with the friends and mentors who become the hallmark of the reflections of generations of Blue Star campers and staff.

While camp really hasn’t changed, the pace of the world “beyond the red gate” has continued to accelerate. As I was putting my oldest son, Reid, to bed a few weeks ago and we were reading one of my old Where’s Waldo? books, an envelope from a camp friend, postmarked 22 AUG 1996, fell from Waldo’s pages. Unfortunately, the letter itself was gone, but the return address and postmark brought me right back to the weeks after my summer in Senior 1. Could our current campers imagine writing a letter to a friend, waiting for them to get it, and hoping they write back? Outside of camp the speed of that response has become almost instantaneous. Our campers (and us as parents too) have become accustomed to that instant feedback. Our children’s schools post photographs, send regular classroom updates, and put grades online immediately. We email teachers and expect a quick resolution. Our kids will never know the pains of having to make sure no one is on the phone and then the “musical” sounds as the dial up internet connects. Today, these delays and so many others are foreign to our lived experience.

As I reflect on what has changed about camp, it isn’t that camp has changed all that much (though the addition of the brand new equestrian barn, the new waterski cable park on the Old Lake, a new rock climbing tower, and all of the capital improvements over the past decade certainly stand out), it is that the pace of everything outside of camp has approached near instant gratification. And not just for our kids – for us as parents and professionals as well.

This summer, let’s lean into the magic of slow time. A camper feeling homesick in their transition needs time to adjust. A camper working through the age-old middle school challenges of shifting friend groups needs the time and space to work through those challenges. A friendship, formed out of common interest and shared experience, needs the space to be nurtured. We can’t slow down the pace of change and the immediacy of feedback in the real world, but for a few weeks this summer, we can let that Blue Star Magic slow things back down into real time.

7 thoughts on “Time for Growth in a Fast-Paced World

  1. Love this, Matt. I remember you and your big smile! So happy to hear camp and its magic remains the same. If I could bottle that feeling and wear it on me daily, I would. I wonder if it’s about being in a time, at a place. I loved our slow pace still in the 90s. We were the last generation to really experience that. I appreciate it so much! I’ve always wanted to come back to BSC, to see the changes and feel the comforts again for myself. Maybe some day soon I will! Blue Star changed my life. Pure joy. Miss it always!

  2. Extraordinary perspective, Fish, and thanks much for both observing it and capturing it so eloquently. Time has accelerated incredibly in the 10-20 years, and we forget that today’s children may not have actually ever experienced “slow time” – and the associated benefits of the reflection that slow time grants. Fortunately, slow time can be captured in nature and whenever we can “unplug”. All the more reason camp is so important – so kids today can experience those benefits and grow from them. Thanks again, Fish. Kol Hakavod!

  3. This article was fabulous about —what camp is all about makes me want to be a kid again❤️ As an ex staff person who led the SIT PROGRAM AND LIVING JUDAISM FOR MANY YEARS -it’s so gratifying to hear that camp is still the same!!!

  4. I have no adequate words for my feelings about Camp Blue Star. In the past, I have penned several words about CBS. It’s strange, but it’s so emotional for me to look at websites, pictures, etc. from my Camp days that I treat them like a good bottle of wine waiting to be enjoyed; they evoke feelings which are almost too much to bear. My years at Blue Star (1950-1963!!! Youngest camper at FIVE on an overnight train ride—Yes, my parents loved me—enough to send me!) were the most meaningful and impactful of my entire life. My seventy-year friends and I are still connected with and visit Camp.
    With Blue Star Spirit, Lovingly,
    Sherry Verkauf Friedlander

  5. Fish,
    You encapsulated the camp experience and the Blue Star Magic. Everyone reading your words are flashing back on what it meant to share a cabin with friends, to live away from home and gain a little independence, to stare into a campfire while your friends pour out their gratitude for this little slice of heaven on earth at Keylog. To walk on trails and appreciate the solitude of Nature and sit by the Old lake and hear the chorus of bullfrogs. The activities were plentiful but the core of it all is the valuable lessons learned, the relationships formed and the spirit of community… and that is everlasting! Blue Star still has the Magic!

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