Breaking down stereotypes

At home during the year I live a pretty quiet little life, so I often find myself sitting and savoring the bustle, noise, activity, and energy of camp. I love the orchestrated chaos. This week has had so much laughter and sports and music and dancing and singing and silliness. I can’t count the times I laughed so hard it hurt or smiled so long my jaw got sore. The soccer games during free time this week were ones for the record book–pure entertainment. The living room dance parties and front porch jam sessions were the same. In the midst of all that fun, though, I’ve seen more going on than meets the eye.

Marilyn asked me about my favorite moment from camp this year. While I found I could not really answer that question, there are a few moments that represent our campers’ work of breaking down stereotypes that are particularly beautiful to me. We’ve challenged our campers all week not to make assumptions about one another and to challenge themselves not to perpetuate stereotypes. They’ve done this work among themselves but have also been stretched in getting to know folks here at Koinonia, an intentional Christian community with a variety of people living and working together.

Soccer games with Koinonians were a hit this week!

Koinonia has a close partnership with a Bruderhof community, so there are regularly rotating groups of Bruderhof visitors living for several months at a time here at the farm. One of the current Bruderhof visitors, Jeremy, is great at soccer and has been joining two Koinonia interns and nearly all of the Peacebuilders campers on the soccer field during afternoon free time. The campers have been having a great time with all the Koinonia soccer players, including Jeremy, who plays in his long pants, socks, shirt, and suspenders with his sandals kicked to the side of the field . The other day when Jeremy scored a goal, a bunch of campers– local Americus boys–rushed him with high fives and friendly shouting, and I was struck by the image. I don’t know what stereotypes these boys had prior to camp regarding people who live in religious community and wear plain clothes, but I don’t imagine their first descriptors would have been “fun, goofy, good at soccer” or anything of the sort. So seeing the boys rush around Jeremy jumping up for high fives and pats on the back was a beautiful sight to me. I can’t help but picture the campers in another setting years from now in which someone puts out a stereotype of people like Jeremy, and they have this memory to guide them in correcting that stereotype.

I found myself having a similar reaction at the talent show tonight during an act featuring three campers whose collaboration in the world outside of camp just seemed so unlikely. One camper in the trio performed an original rap over a remixed cover of “Perfect” (by Pink) by the other two campers. The entire talent show was such a beautiful display of diversity–so much good music, acting, dancing, and poetry from Peacebuilders and even more great acts from Koinonia members, including lots of music, a special folk song, bird calls, and a sing along.

What better ways to build peace than crossing lines of difference and breaking down stereotypes? And what better settings than sports and music? We have such talented athletes and musicians in this group that I can’t wait to see how they decide to use their skills for their camp commitments tomorrow.

Below are photos from the day:

Categories: 2014 Peacebuilders Camp, Campers, Guests at Camp, Peacebuilding |