“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
– Fred Rodgers
Seven years ago, I sat around a campfire at a camp much like this one. With bated breath, I listened as a list of names was called. The list carried with it a chance to return to Camp Belknap for at least one more summer under the pines. And the list did not carry my name. At 16, my days at camp were over. I would never work for Belknap.
I was crestfallen. Camp was over, but life beckoned with new chances, adventures, and opportunities.
I wiped the tears from my face, hugged my friends goodbye, and drove home to the real world.
I finished high school, went to college, met a girl, and picked out a career. Camp had built me into a young man filled with confidence and hope for his future. And it was all going according to plan.
But man plans, and God laughs.
Six months after my college graduation, everything had unraveled. I was brokenhearted, unsure of my career and life, and losing a battle with depression. For months I wallowed in a dark apartment in Cambridge and scrolled endless jobs on indeed that I knew deep down I didn’t want. I slowly slipped away, swallowed by the weight of it all. I had no light at the end of my tunnel.
I needed help.
The thing is, when you are the one that needs help, finding it can be astonishingly hard. The slightest effort becomes herculean. Looking for helpers feels like a monumental task. I felt like I was using every ounce of strength I had just to hold on. How could I reach out with my fingers so preoccupied gripping the ledge? How could I look for the helpers?
But what the quote I read doesn’t mention is that true helpers do not need to be asked. What is so incredible about them is that they will find you. They will help whether you are looking or not. They will help whether you ask or not.
In the bleak winter, they will wade through snow drifts. They will come to you in the cold and the dark and light you a fire.
One of my helpers is sitting here today.
Nate Levine has been my friend since we were nine years old. And for those of you who don’t know, we’re old, so nine years old is a LONG time ago.
Nate saw me in trouble. He heard me talk about life. He saw someone who needed help. And he was brave, kind, and generous enough to offer it. Nate did something incredible for me. Nate brought me back to camp. Not my camp. His camp. The place he loves more than anyone I have ever met. And he opened the door to me because he knew what a place like this could do. Nate gave me a light in the dark.
This summer, Camp has saved me. I am back to enjoying my life. I smile more in a day than I did in a year. That is because of the helpers. I want to thank everyone at Coniston for that. I want to thank Nate more than anyone. Nate, you saved me. I love you. I will owe you forever.
Being under the pines truly and unequivocally made me a better man. It forged me. It gave me love, empathy, and kindness. It taught me to put others before myself. And it’s clear that being on the lake did the same for Nate. It is doing the same thing for all of you. If you let it, this camp will change you for the better. Because this camp is filled with helpers. They are your councilors. They are your fellow campers. They are across the water in GK. They are your cabin mates.
Among the faces around you now are helpers like Nate. Look at them. I implore you to let them help when you need it. And trust me, you will need it. We all need help at some point. And if you are brave enough, there is a helper in the mirror too. I encourage you all to look for those in need of your help and give it without hesitation. Look for the helpers. And if you don’t see one, be one.
My name is Brackett Lyons. This is my eighth summer at camp. And my first summer on the lake.