In Pursuit of Play
"We believe that the best things in life are not toys and bells and whistles, but rather canoes and songs and circle games."
If your timing is just right, you’ll get to see it. You’ll have to listen carefully. You’ll have to find the right spot. You’ll have to be in the right place at the right time. But if all those stars align, you’ll get to see one of the most glorious sites that Parque summer camp has to offer: campers headed to the beach.
It’s best to get down there a little early, but you can’t rely on your watch, because these beach moments happen outside the constraints of time. They happen neither early nor late and they always happen; usually every day, twice a day. If the conditions are just right, what you’ll see is this: a mass of bodies streaming through the gate at the top of the beach. Colorful articles of clothing and towels and shoes fly through the air toward the base of the big tree that covers a small corner of the beach in blissful and glorious shade.
Then they’ll start running. At least one of the leaders will sprint to get ahead of them and stop them right at the edge of the water. They’ll bump into each other before naturally falling into one long line along the water’s edge. You can almost see the sweat dripping from their hairline, the twitchy taps of their feet that betray their eagerness to escape the often inescapable summer heat.
While a few of the leaders run into the water to create the barrier for their swim area, another leader makes sure the energy level is sufficient for the fun that’s about to happen. A secret: it never is. So the leader gets them pumped up. Usually it’s with a song, usually it involves shouting, and usually it requires rolling around in the sand. As soon as they’re released from the shoreline, they run screaming into the water. After that, they just play.
It’s so much fun to watch because it’s so gloriously simple. For leaders and campers both, this beach time is just play. There’s no structure or rigidness or planned activity. It’s just floating and kicking and chasing and jumping and spinning and splashing for the fun of it. When they tire of swimming, they play soccer on the beach or build sandcastles. They do it because it’s fun. You can see on the faces of the leaders and the campers that they just love it.
Watching these young people swim in this way is a good reminder that the best things in life are often simple: swimming in a river, watching a sunset, sharing a meal. It suggests that our lives are often over structured, over planned, and over programmed. It’s confirmation that we don’t need more stuff. It’s inspiration to make play something that’s easy. It’s affirmation from Parque that by valuing simplicity and play at Fowler, we’re not doing something crazy.
Because at Camp Fowler, we do value simplicity. We believe that the best things in life are not toys and bells and whistles, but rather canoes and songs and circle games. We believe that our world too often makes things more complicated than they need to be, more complicated than they are. And we believe that Jesus lived a life that embodied simplicity, so we strive to pursue simplicity as we strive to be more like him.
We think, that if you come to Fowler, like so many before you, you’ll be captured by this idea that life really is simple. We think it will infiltrate your life in the best possible way: you’ll value your phone less and your relationships more; you’ll be more oriented toward acceptance; you’ll care less about the peripheral things that the world tells you should matter because you’ll be a little more in touch with the things that really do matter.
So, come to Camp Fowler this summer to see what a simple life can be like, what a good life can be like. Be like the kids at Parque, for whom uninterrupted play in the Rio del Plata is the best thing they could ask for. Because they might just be right.