#summer2021

Camp & the impact of ‘insignificant’ interactions

The most seemingly unimportant things in our eyes might affect the lifetime of someone else

I’m an Israeli. I’m an adventure specialist. I’m a counselor. Most importantly, I’m a former camper at URJ Camp Harlam.

Back in 2010, one of my counselors, Brian, taught us how to play with the Diabolo, also called the Chinese yo-yo.

At first, I struggled with it. I couldn’t really wrap my head around it, but Brian kept patiently instructing over and over until after many attempts, I finally got it! That experience was so significant and so fun for me. Once I returned home to Israel, I asked for a Diabolo for my birthday. Sure enough, for my 16th birthday, I got one— the one I have here at camp today. 

I practiced at home for many hours. It became a small obsession of mine. I took it with me everywhere, and I mean everywhere: high school, trips, camping, holidays, youth group activities, friends and family gatherings, and more. It became a part of my “image” and identity. I was “the Diabolo guy.”

We—the Diabolo and I—were inseparable. 

I took it with me when I was a counselor at a boarding school in Kibbutz Ein Gedi near the Dead Sea. There, I had the opportunity to teach the kids just as Brian taught me. I even took it with me while serving in the IDF (Israeli Defense Force).

While teaching so many kids, fellow soldiers and peers how to play the Diabolo, I discovered that the Diabolo was an amazing tool for me to break the ice and connect with random people. As it turns out, such a significant part of my life and my character originated in a very specific place, and a very specific person, and I am forever grateful. 

But here is the kicker: Brian doesn’t remember any of this. 

I reached out to him to get a few tips and pointers before my interview for camp. At the end of our conversation, I told him how grateful I am for him and his impact on my life, and he responded: “Truthfully I do not remember teaching you the Diabolo.”

And that is exactly why I felt it is important that I share that story with you.

All of us, as camp staff and employees, will interact with so many children this summer. None of us can fully comprehend how deep and meaningful our interactions with them will be from their perspective. There are no “minor” or “insignificant” interactions. The most seemingly unimportant things in our eyes might affect the lifetime of someone else, maybe our own campers.

Itamar Sabag is an Adventure Specialty Counselor at URJ Camp Harlam. He lives in K’far Saba, Israel, and this is his first summer on staff at camp.

This piece is a part of Foundation for Jewish Camp’s summer blog series. Follow along all summer long, and share how Jewish camp impacted your life! Tell us your story in the comments, on Facebook, or tweet @JewishCamp using the hashtag #JewishCamp.