As my son and his friend Michael plopped down on the log next to our campfire, Michael looked over at me and asked if he could have his cell phone. I took a deep breath in and before I could respond, my son looked straight up into the darkness of night and with the bright stars up high he said, “Wow, it’s so cool here. Man, you don’t need your phone; look up.”
In that moment, I smiled lovingly at my son and knew he ‘got it.’ He understood why I brought him here. As a girl who grew up in the woods of Western Carolina and the Swamp, I was a bit ashamed that I hadn’t taken him camping before now.
After the initial shock of not having modern technology at their disposal, they both came to realize that they could still have fun and embrace all that Mother Nature has to offer. There is a unique joy for boys of peeing in the woods, being muddy, dirty and the ever real frustrations and success of putting up a tent.
Our lives are full of details; the hustle of the work week, homework, chores, bills and the blunders of the day are all sure to creep into our daily conversations. However, something quite transformative happens when we put ourselves around a campfire-
We tell stories.
We share-we listen- we empathize-we connect on a visceral level.
And we’ve been doing it for thousands of years. The hunting-gathering societies such as that of the Kalahari Bushmen in Botswana utilize the fireside chats to bond with others in their tribes through dancing, song and stories of their ancestors of whom displayed tremendous courage in the hunt. Perhaps this was the early beginnings of social media- a way to connect; to form a sense of community-ever heard of Facebook? WordPress? Twitter? And yes, much to my chagrin, Snapchat.
The circles that are created around a campfire are a natural source of unity and human openness. On the second night of our camping trip, Michael shared his deeply personal feelings and desire to play professional soccer. A campfire story that expressed disappoint- a dream dismissed by his parents as ‘silly and too expensive.’ Even at his young age, I believe he understands the value of being part of a team, and something bigger than himself- connecting with others who share his passion. We encouraged Michael to keep speaking of his love and dream with his parents and anyone who would listen.
And if he does, oh, what a wonderful story could be told… around the campfire.