WILDER’S WHOLE WORLD: Remember summer camp?

Dwayne Wilder
Special to the Herald Democrat
Herald Democrat

I only went to one or two during my teen years, but the one that stands out is the United Methodist Church Camp at Bridgeport. I don’t know if it’s still there, but in 1973, it was ’da bomb! I was thirteen and full of life, but I had no clue really; and I learned this sobering fact that first day.

There were hundreds of kids realizing the same thing as it was probably the first time for most to be away from home overnight much less six nights! We all were members of the UMC, but that’s where the similarities ended. We were all types and sizes and personalities and of course, looks. We had attitudes; and we had a lot to learn.

Those brilliant people running the camp did something that first night that I still remember to this day. It told me – for the first time – that I was only a small part of the world, but a part nonetheless. My individualism could only go so far; and I would need to branch out in order to survive in this world. After dinner that Sunday night, we gathered in the big hall and played a ‘game’ – what they called “The World Game.”

It goes by several names, but the concept is the same. The ‘World’ is divided into areas – it doesn’t matter how many – just a representative number is fine. You have Africa, the Orient, Americas, Europe and Australia or any combination or subsection depending on the number of people playing. With our couple of hundred kids, we had specific groups of ‘world’ peoples such as 15 campers were Sub-Sahara indigenous people; and 20 were Europeans. And so on…

Each ‘group’ had their own language, money, resources and culture. One can see that there will be conflicts between ‘peoples’ just based on these four concepts alone. The key was to work together in order to make a better ‘World,’ thus the name of the game. Yes, there were a couple of campers (given special talents) who could bridge gaps between peoples; and make it easier to communicate, for instance. But that would cost you resources and if you ran out of resources, your economy tanked.

The goal was to have a world with all the peoples working together to survive on this planet of ours. It showed how wars and disputes just got in the way of success; and it showed how pride and greed seeped into relationships between groups. Basically, it showed the real world; the one we were growing into as young teens.

I don’t remember what group I was in, but I remember how incredibly hard it was to do. You would get in fights in your group BEFORE you ever ventured out to other groups! This is so true as I see the world now as an adult. This game was teaching such valuable lessons that I have thought back on it repeatedly in my life. And then, once you went out to other groups, the simple idea of negotiations was fraught with pitfalls you never saw coming. This is real Life.

I don’t remember how long we played; and it didn’t matter the outcome. Really, it mattered that each participant saw what it takes to be a person in this world of ours: the challenges, the patience it takes, the tolerance, and the simple idea that we are in this together. What powerful messages from a game!

I look at where we are today in our world. I don’t like what I see; and I am brought back to that game. The lessons learned in it can be used to make a successful world for all of us. We need to quit seeing each other as races, religions and societies; and start looking at each other as human beings.

This is when the ‘game’ becomes real.

Dwayne Wilder is a Sherman native who currently lives in Denison. Wilder’s Whole World is his commentary about life in Texoma and the world. Wilder can be reached at cmandad17@gmail.com. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.