In March, my friend and I were fulfilling our duty of cleaning out the Canadian Mennonite University Student Council room when we came across a filing cabinet of school newspapers from the 1960s. Being rather loosely committed to our cleaning assignment, we soon found ourselves leafing through submissions sent in by students during the summer, and lo and behold, I came across a letter written by someone working at Camp Valaqua (Water Valley, Alta.).
They detailed sporadic weather patterns, beautiful landscapes, good food, a picturesque wedding and the struggle of trying to re-learn the names of six campers after realizing that the ones originally provided were false – this groups’ first performance in a series of practical jokes.
Having worked at Camp Valaqua, I have also wondered at the landscape, dined, attended weddings of my own dear friends, and been at the mercy of cabins of young boys exploring how fruitful life can be when it is crammed with pranks, so it was rather surreal to read something from 60 years ago that so closely resembled the experiences floating around in my own memories. They spoke of the joy of exploring what it means to be a counsellor for others with the same hesitancy and excitement that I felt when on the same path.
I think I can often get caught up in ideas rooted in exceptionalism when thinking about what is best for my development as a young adult, and what will turn me into the kind of person who will have the capacity to make an impact in the world. Many of us tend to internalize the idea that building a vision of hope for the future can only be uncovered by looking forward, willing ourselves not only to learn more, but to learn faster, convinced that we must find ourselves on the forefront of some field or industry where we will then, finally, have the capacity to “make a difference.”
Reflecting on my time as a counsellor-in-training at Camp Valaqua, I think nobody will be surprised to know that neither the campers nor the staff were making any technological breakthroughs. Quite obviously, that was not the point. Rather, we faced nearly the same challenges, bore witness to the same beauty and uncovered the same God as that of our predecessors, with no change needed to bring more value.
It feels bizarre to share an experience so deeply with someone who communicated long distance via a typewriter; meanwhile I’m writing on a word processor that seems to understand grammar better than I do. However, maybe this points to something intrinsically valuable about these experiences.
Writing this exactly one year after COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic – an event that led to our lives changing in ways far more extensive than we first imagined possible – I invite us to explore the places in our lives where time is of little consequence. In these spaces, I hope that we may find purpose that is unfettered by the comings and goings of tumultuous times, and that, by God’s grace, it will persist for years to come.
Levi Klassen just completed his third year of science studies at Canadian Mennonite University. He served as CMU Student Council’s vice-president advocacy during the 2020-21 school year. This reflection originally appeared in the March 24, 2021 edition of The MCA Communiqué, Mennonite Church Alberta’s weekly e-newsletter.