Chapel Talk written by #22008 Willa McKinley (Left)
Good morning, Camp Dudley. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Willa McKinley and I live in Adams, that forbidden cabin that stands to the left of maintenance. When I was writing this chapel talk I was trying to figure out how many years I’ve worked at Dudley and I settled on that this is my 6th consecutive year at camp. But I think that number fails to represent the 21 years I’ve spent year-round in these gates. This morning I’d like to talk to you all about perspective, and first I’m going to share a fictional story that I found on the internet:
“Once upon a time, five blind men came upon an elephant.
“What is this?” asked the first one, who had run head first into its side.
“It’s an elephant.” said the elephant’s keeper, who was sitting on a stool, cleaning the elephant’s harness.
“Wow, so this is an Elephant! I’ve always wondered what Elephants are like.” said the man, running his hands as far as he could reach up and down the elephant’s side. “Why, it’s just like a wall, a large, warm wall!”
“What do you mean, a wall?” said the second man, wrapping his arms around the elephant’s leg. “This is nothing like a wall. You can’t reach around a wall! This is more like a pillar. Yeah, that’s it, an elephant is exactly like a pillar!”
“A pillar? Strange kind of pillar!” said the third man, stroking the elephant’s trunk. “It’s too thin, for one thing, and it’s too flexible for another. If you think this is a pillar, I don’t want to go to your house! This is more like a snake. See, it’s wrapping around my arm. An elephant is just like a snake!”
“Snakes don’t have hair!” said the fourth man in disgust, pulling the elephant’s tail. “You are closer than the others, but I’m surprised that you missed the hair. This isn’t a snake, it’s a rope. Elephants are exactly like ropes.”
“I don’t know what you guys are on!” the fifth man cried, waving the elephant’s ear back and forth. “It’s as large as a wall, all right, but thin as a leaf, and no more flexible than any piece of cloth this size should be. I don’t know what’s wrong with all of you, but no one except a complete idiot could mistake an elephant for anything except a sail!”
And as the elephant moved on, they stumbled along down the road, arguing more vehemently as they went, each sure that he, and he alone, was right and all the others were wrong”
Now, I want you to picture camp as this elephant and all of you as the blind men. Similar to the story of the elephant, your individual perspectives of camp probably differ depending on who you are and where you come from, but you’re all experiencing a common elephant, that of camp Dudley. Perhaps many of you share a very similar perspective of coming to camp that goes something like this- you were 10.5 when you made the long drive thru the Adirondacks to the upper fields, there you received the name of a cabin where you would spend the next 3.5 weeks and where your mom made your bed for you, for the first and the last time your bed was ever neat that summer…and the rest is history as you are all here today.
Today however, I want to offer you my perspective. In many ways, I represent everything that Camp Dudley is not. I am not a boy, my first time at camp was not when I was a 10.5 year old cub, I do not experience the dreadful ride home from camp that Connor Smith so accurately described in his 2014 chapel talk, I started working at camp a year younger than staff members are typically hired, I have a bed in both Adams and also at my permanent residence just 5 miles from here, I come before pre-season starts and I stay later than the last CDA reunion-goer, because I am a local. As you can see, my perspective of Camp Dudley is probably very different from all of yours, and I’d like to focus on the two reasons that stand out the most to me; being a girl at an all-boys camp, and being a local.
Some of you may be wondering, what is it like being a female working at Dudley?
Well, the obvious differences are I’ve never been a leader, I’ve never been a camper. But I’ve also never coached a team here, I’ve never run an extravaganza or council ring, and perhaps most obviously I am only an observer of the friendships you create amongst the leaders and with your campers.
As for being a local and working at camp? I see camp with the glowing buzz of summer and happy campers, contrasted with the silent, snowy whiteness of winter. For most of you, Dudley is probably the extent to which you know Westport, yet from a local’s perspective camp is literally its own civilization, cut off from the rest of Westport (although this is changing as Dudley gets more involved in the local community). Camp brings heavy business and money 6 days out of the year (including opening day, changeover, and closing day) as the Inns and bed and breakfasts are bustling with eager parents. Thus, as a local Camp Dudley is a limb to a whole body, a small part of a much bigger culture that extends into a community, into a county, into the Adirondacks, and into the world. For many of you, camp is the beginning and the end here in Westport; for locals there is a bigger world right here in this small town.
My perspective of Dudley is heavily influenced by who I am and the fact that I grew up here. Because of who I am, I will have a different summer here than all of you. But, similar to the lesson in the story of the elephant, that doesn’t make any one summer better or worse or any one perception of camp right or wrong. By offering you my perspective, I give you another piece of the elephant, the eye let’s say. This year at camp I urge you to discover a unique perspective of camp or your own piece of the elephant, one that is created by your individual experiences. In 3 days you will meet 300 boys who will all have their own ideas of camp, help them create their stories and evolve their experiences. As you open your mind to the perceptions of fellow leaders, campers, and staff members, piece by piece and story by story you work toward a bird’s eye view of the whole elephant.
I’d like to conclude with a quote from JK Rowling so please bow your heads, “The world is full of wonderful things you haven’t seen yet. Don’t ever give up on the chance of seeing them.” Amen.