By Allison Terry, National Alumni Board
There are numerous experiences at the A/U Ranches that can change a person’s life: peaking your first 14-er, guiding your first rapid on the Arkansas River or taking the Leap of Faith at the ropes course, to name a few.
Each of these experiences can push you out of your comfort zone, challenging you to grow and learn in ways you didn’t realize you could. These are all done in an atmosphere of love and support that encourages you to be and do more than you imagined. As a camper, these are the experiences that kept me coming back to the Ranches – back to a place I could call home and feel instantly connected with Love and Spirit.
Then one summer, there was a shift. No longer a camper, I was instantaneously (or so it seemed) the one giving the encouragement, guidance and love. As much as I grew personally and spiritually as a camper, being a counselor-in-training (CIT) took that growth to a whole new level – and it’s an experience that continues to affect my life in immeasurable ways.
Being a CIT is hard work, hands down. You split your time between lodge, program and bunkhouse, never really feeling like you have enough time in any of them. The hours in the lodge are long, washing all the dishes, scrubbing the pots and pans, cleaning the bathrooms, sweeping and mopping a floor that will never be totally clean and singing Aretha Franklin at the top of your lungs in an effort to make Hobart sanitize faster.
Then you run out to join your program, which for me was Challengers at Sky Valley. It was my turn to coach campers through the ropes course, to belay them to the top of Tri-Hangle after numerous attempts, to see the joy and feeling of accomplishment on their faces when they stood on top of their first 14-er. In cabin, it was my turn to comfort the homesick camper, to ask questions during Lesson study and to help get those blankets pulled tight so we didn’t get points off during inspection.
As a CIT, it’s hard to know if you are doing any one of these things quite right. There’s a learning curve, and vulnerability, but what follows is strength and confidence and trust in God’s guidance. You are challenged in an environment that nurtures and supports your growth. That summer was a milestone in my learning to make Christian Science my own – to trust God so completely that I could rely on Truth to handle whatever challenge was put in front of me. The metaphysical focus that summer was learning to walk in the Spirit, and one of the citations we used was from Mary Baker Eddy: “Every step of progress is a step more spiritual” (Peo. 1:2). In many ways, that citation is what being a CIT is all about – progressing from a limited sense of who you are, and catching glimpses of man’s higher ideal.
The greatest thing about being a CIT is that you aren’t doing it alone. There are about 20 other people experiencing the same struggles and triumphs as you! And it’s a shared experience that bonds you for life. I made some of my dearest friends that summer – relationships that have only grown stronger and deeper through life’s various obstacles and victories. There’s nothing quite like having a refried bean food fight in the dish room to bond two people for life.
CITs learn several life lessons as a group: teamwork, communication skills, responsibility and sacrifice. It’s those steps of progress – the shift toward learning to give support and love, and to see and know the very best in those around you.
At the end of my CIT summer, Ranch Director Bobby Lewis sent an inspiring message to the staff, which I still keep in my CIT scrapbook, about the summer: “A thousand little glimmers on the water, a thousand red streaks in the sundown sky, a thousand steps up the trail, a thousand strokes in the water. Each one of us went about it differently, of course, but I don’t guess we’d trade any of it. It’s meant a lot of good humor, a few flashes of almost unbearable beauty and a sense of what it means to walk in the Spirit. Now we know more of what is real.”
I so cherish the memories of that summer 15 years ago, learning more of what is real about love, life and joy. And I am beyond excited to celebrate that at the 60th Reunion in August.
Registration is now open for the 60th Reunion: Start here.