“A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? But in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof, trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn’t easy. You may ask, why do we stay up there if it’s so dangerous? We stay because Anatevka is our home… And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word… Tradition.”

Raise your hand if you know and love this quote. It is, of course, from the 1971 film adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof – one of the most beloved Broadway Musicals of all time. The fiddler is a metaphor for survival while enduring a life of uncertainty, and the quote above is the opening line from ‘Tevye,’ a simple dairyman who is a father of five daughters, and trying to maintain his Jewish traditions amidst the tumultuous times just prior to the Russian Revolution.

Now, if you raised your hand, consider a sobering reality… you’re getting old! Maybe not old old, but time has been marching on for a while now, and if you’re not old, at least admit that you’re a little outside of the mainstream for knowing the quote in the first place. That’s just my opinion, of course, but don’t take it too harsh. I know exactly how you feel.

At 53, I’ve crossed the threshold of the half century mark, and living out here in the Frio canyon for over a decade, I’m way outside the mainstream. In fact, figuratively speaking, I can’t even see the mainstream, and am bobbing around in some creek trying to stay afloat! If you’re farther down the road than I am, and you consider my age to be relatively still young, please don’t take offense. It’s just that I can’t help feeling a little, or maybe even a lot like Tevye these days- trying to maintain some semblance of balance and wholeness in a rapidly changing environment. Like Tevye, I find that I am set in my ways and distrustful of change. Like Tevye, my bedrock of values and traditions are constantly threatened by new ideas, and shifting opinions. I’m not just talking about camp, although we’ve faced many changes here too, but rather life as a whole around me.

This is exactly why I am privileged to work with the Foundation Camp Program. The goal and mission has continued very much the same, and the Butt family has remained committed to providing first class camping opportunities at little or no cost to non-profit groups, especially those who support underprivileged children.

Therefore, I take great delight when I see 7 busloads of middle school students enter the river on their way to camp. I even go down to the river entrance to wave at them as I watch 4 buses full of girls take a right and head toward Echo Valley, while the other 3, full of boys, peel off to the left for Singing Hills. It’s tradition- Flour Bluff ISD has been coming on this retreat for 63 years! You just have to shake your head and say WOW to that don’t you? No seriously- shake your head and say WOW! Way back when the HEB grocery company’s center of operation was located in Corpus Christi, a connection was made with the Flour Bluff school system that has remained constant over the decades.

Now, though, comes the tough part. I see the excited exuberant look on the faces of those young teenagers, and the gritty determined look on the faces of the faculty and staff- reminding me of the challenge set before me. I must stand in front of those kids and give them an orientation. From experience, I know that this is no small task. I have the battle scars to prove that I, myself, was an 8th grade teacher for 13 years- in the trenches, and attempting to educate the most intimidating and cruel segment of society the world has ever known. You want to know the meaning of tough? Heck, your average veteran middle school teacher would consider Genghis Khan to be a sissy girl!

I set my shoulders with fortitude, and armed with age and experience, I boldly head over to the Singing Hills campsite, ready to face the firing squad. However, much to my shock, these kids were great! Almost every one of them came up to shake my hand and thank me for allowing them to come to camp. Why, you may ask, did they act this way? That I can tell you with one word… tradition! When I asked for a show of hands for students whose parents had been on this same retreat, about 30 hands went up, and when I asked if any had grandparents who came here, about 10 hands stayed in the air! Most of them had been hearing about this retreat from their siblings, parents and even grandparents their whole lives, and they were eager to show their respect for this experience.

Here is the perfect example of what I’ve been trying to tell you- that in a rapidly changing world, I still get to witness countless examples of the legacy of a camping program that does things pretty much the same as always, and I dig that! As we try to accept the changes happening around us, it is so important that we stay true to our roots, and I am proud as a peacock of that legacy. So congratulations H.E. Butt Foundation Camp Program, and to the entire family for 63 years of commitment and service to over 1 million campers! I’m also thankful to the larger community around us that has supported this camp for so many years, and in so many ways.

As I hope to continue with these articles, I look forward to sharing your traditions that I have come to know and love. Isn’t this a great place to live? You bet your sweet bippy it is!

Picture me clicking my heals in the air, Tevye style, as I shout from the rooftops, fiddle in hand…

“Mazel Tov!”

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