Dear Baco Family,
Here we are again.
The daily ritual of gathering in a ring at the heart of camp may have become mundane for some, but not for me. What happens in this council ring is truly nothing special on paper. We make announcements. We remind people where they need to be. We throw gravel and squirm at services. But that’s not what keeps me coming back. Mel Wortman, the camp patriarch throughout my childhood at camp, would tell a story of the origins of the council ring that will always help me define my love for this unexplainable thing we call Baco Pride.
According to legends, the people who inhabited this land long before us used a council ring for some of the same reasons we do at camp. The most important aspect of the council ring is its shape. The ring serves an important role for active and tight knit communities like ours. While sitting in a ring, everyone in the community can see one another, and more importantly, can see everything around each other. While you may not be able to see what’s happening behind your back, you have the ability to look out for those sitting across from you.
And in return, those sitting across from you will have your back. That is the true essence of Baco Pride. While seemingly a very simple concept, that form of selflessness does not come easy to many. But it comes easy to Baco Boys, as I have come to realize over my nearly 13 summers here.
What I love about council ring is the same thing I love about camp in general: It stresses the importance of each and every person involved. We are all needed to protect the well being of one another.
A well functioning community only maintains itself by maintaining a strong web of trust amongst its members. As we sit around a campfire shedding a tear at the shared memories which now seem distant, we allow ourselves to expose a vulnerable side that is only shared among our council ring.
We are encouraged to break boundaries and explore new or unfamiliar interests at Baco because whether it be over the last 7 weeks, 7 years, or entire life here, we have come to understand that we have each other’s backs. What I have learned from those who have come before me and what I intend to pass on to those who will follow in my footsteps is something that I think comes naturally to many Baco Boys: The betterment of others will inevitably lead to the betterment of yourself. That is a lesson that was ingrained in my psyche at Baco, but will follow me for the rest of my life.
While many of you may already feel this way, chances are not all of us are on that same page in our life stories yet. And that’s okay. There are most likely funhouse campers here who still look at waiters like they have three heads, or kids in the circle who don’t always see eye to eye. But the more time we spend in this council ring each summer, the more our differences deteriorate. My favorite part of council ring each and every day is taking a few moments to let the shuffling gravel and thundering bellow of Greg’s mouth trumpet clear my mind while I look around at all of you interesting people who also call this place home for seven weeks. I look around at the kids who wear two left slides, of which both belong to different people, and it only makes me love this place a little more.
When a kid in the inner ring makes an announcement, I will always be listening, extremely impressed with the courage these kids have to address an entire camp- courage I never possessed as a camper and am still working on strengthening today.
But as I look around this ring once again, placed in a trance by the purple haze of the high peaks, I look at all of the faces that have strengthened my courage and made me the “French Fry” you see today. The Jared who stepped off the Yankee Trails coach bus 13 years ago is not the French Fry you see today, and I have all of you to thank. From what I’ve learned, the more I draw from those I love and respect while also empathizing with and understanding those who I don’t always agree with will help me better understand myself, where I fit in to my community, and this world at large.
Baco highlights the incredible qualities of all those within, small or large, and to ignore others’ importance in favor of your own will leave you with no one to impress, and no one to learn from. Aside from the unrelenting dark of night and the quintessential view of the high peaks to the North, there is something more that Baco provides that cannot be replicated in a cubicle at a summer internship or on a plane to a teen tour.
The camaraderie here is truly unexplainable, and only really makes sense to those of you sitting here listening right now. It is ingrained in us to look out for our brothers. That same instinct that makes the members of this council ring sway arm in arm to a gentle tune while campfire smoke dissociates us from reality is what keeps us coming back. While nothing hits like a good milk call or is refreshing as sixth period general after leagues, the reason we come back is to be with each other, focussing less on ourselves and more on our community. That is a mindset hard to replicate in any other place.
Allison and Barbara, thank you for allowing me to stand here and share this mindset with this community that you have devoted your lives to. You have had the incredibly tough job of providing a safe haven for campers and counselors alike, who needed the spirit of each other to help ease the pain of the real world. We truly appreciate all you do.
Greg and Danny, thank you for being the heart and soul of this camp. Whether it be standing in the center of the council ring watching over all of our backs or in the back office ensuring each and every one of our needs are met, there are no better role models who perfectly define the intersection between responsibility and fun.
Rick and Robyn, thank you for not only looking after our backs, but for being our literal backbone. Your energy and empathy spreads through camp faster than any cold, and I can always count on your help. Your selflessness is something truly honorable. Mickey, thank you for always keeping us on our toes, making us much more conscious of our surroundings and how we affect the world around us.
Shlomit, thank you for keeping the creative juices flowing throughout these hills, continually widening our horizons.
Jane and Bruno, your blessings each and every week remind us how lucky we are to celebrate life together in this place. Thank you for putting the needs of every camper in the dining room, on the terrace, or on the courts before your own to ensure the best summer possible.
And to the waiters of 2016- Kader, Justin, and even the Goldsteins, along with our elder waiter of 2014, Wilky- having you alongside me throughout this trip is all I could have asked for. You are the reason I stress the importance of learning from your friends in order to better yourself.
So, for one final time today, I will take a deep breath and look around this council ring at all of your interesting and wonderful faces. The French Fry that has worked up the courage to talk to you all today would have never been a reality without the many inspirations that have sat in this council ring past and present.
My hope is that I can inspire the likes of future generations of Baco campers and counselors to maintain the essence of council ring and of Baco Pride: always having each other’s backs.
Thank you. Baco Pride,
Jared “French Fry” Freifeld, Waiter of 2016