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A Place to Belong

Last week, my kids, along with many other little Villagers, got to participate in Maker’s Camp. I’ve always looked forward to the summer as a fun time to explore new things and have new experiences, so we’ve been doing summer programs – in one form or another – for 13 years. VBSs, Sports Camps, Library Programs, Mom’s Groups, etc. etc. Most of the time, I would have to give a pep talk at some point during the week to at least one child – “Give it a try.” “Get outside your comfort zone.” “Be willing to stick with it, even if it’s uncomfortable.”

But this year was different. This year, I dropped the kids off and never heard a single complaint the whole week. Everyday they woke up excited to go back. Ethne said she didn’t want the week to end. There was not a single complaint, but there were several “Awww man!”s when I said it was time to go.

So, what made it different? I think this camp was so special because it was created by individuals who were sharing their authentic selves, and this naturally makes space for others to be their authentic self. Most organized programs offer activity, but not authenticity. There’s little room for exploration, personality, mistakes, or curiosity. In a culture that often seeks to squeeze children into tiny boxes, Maker’s Camp gave breathing room. It offered a balance between healthy boundaries and organic exploration. It didn’t ask “Can you complete this activity?” but rather “Who are you and how does that show up when I offer you this activity?”

Authentic offerings produce space for others to offer authentically. I saw Mark’s playful spirit, I saw Jessica’s love for reading and early childhood development, I saw Meg’s love of both art and children, Jake and Heather’s hearts of service, and Adrienne’s passion for inclusion and community.

I saw my kids show up. I saw Owen’s heart of leadership and duty, I saw Reece’s love of physics (evidenced in multiple references to thermonuclear explosions), and I saw Ethne’s talent for art and creativity.

When we show up, it invites others to show up. But it’s not always easy, especially for those of us that lacked experiences in childhood that created space for us to be our authentic self. For some, including myself, the old experiences of being rejected, ignored, ridiculed, attacked, or unseen come back to us when it’s time to show ourselves. And it can be crippling, painful, terrifying, and agonizing. I really struggle to offer, and I know some of you do, too. But, I also know it’s worth the risk because when I do, it creates space for others to experience that same things I long for – curiosity, exploration, joy, fulfillment, and acceptance.


  1. “It offered a balance between healthy boundaries and organic exploration. It didn’t ask “Can you complete this activity?” but rather “Who are you and how does that show up when I offer you this activity?””

    Amanda, I am inspired by your encouraging words and how you have beautifully captured what we hoped to acheive when many of us started planning for this camp. It was so amazing to see what the campers did once they understood what the camp was about. Danielle and I worked with the 6-8 year olds for the last session and by the last day they were completely running the show in that room. It was cool!

    I will admit that I had anxiety leading up to the camp for the vulnerability that “showing up” offers. What if the kids didn’t like me? What if I bored them to death with what I had planned for them? What if their boredum was relayed to their parents and then parents would disapprove of me? It was a struggle for me, as you write, but you’re so right in that it was worth the risk! It was worth getting to know your kids a little better and getting to provide a space for creativity.

    With that said, I have to give more credit to Danielle. She was instrumental in planning for the structure of this camp and was a huge help throughout, especially on the last day when she pushed me to stay energized. Thank you, Danielle!

  2. Amanda, I like how you used the word “space” to describe positive opportunities.


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