"Make the world a better place, because you are in it."

I should be writing about Maya Angelou today. Most people are writing about, talking about and remembering this incredible woman. I feel her loss to the world deeply as well. But I'm not going to write about Maya Angelou. I'm going to write about Louise Henderson instead, a woman who passed away on Saturday, who has had a profound impact on my life and so many others throughout her 80 years.

I've been struggling for the past couple of days, wondering how I could write about or even if I could write about Louise.  Louise wasn't famous. She was the co-director of Camp Arcadia, a summer camp I attended for years and cannot even fully articulate how important this place remains in my life to this day.

I learned of her death and immediately felt like whatever I would write might seem inadequate. The thing is that she was a larger than life type of person. Yet for some reason, the death of someone as inspiring to me as Maya Angelou unlocked something in me today, and I feel compelled to write.

Maya Angelou and Louise Henderson were born only 6 years apart. Yes, they were born into completely different circumstances and lead completely different lives, yet they did share some similarities. They were both incredibly brave and courageous women who stood up for what they believed in, they both wanted to make a difference in the world, and they both inspired so many people.

I've known Louise since I was ten years old. I was incredibly shy and pretty scared to be at a sleepover camp in Maine for seven weeks without my parents. Within the first few days, Louise singled me out and called me over, demanding to know how I was doing. I was a bit intimidated at first. Yet Louise soon pulled me down on her lap with her cackling laugh, and I felt reassured and at home.

Over the years, camp became my home away from home and Louise in turn became a sort of summer aunt. I always felt as if she was watching over me with pride (as well as making sure, in her omniscient way, that none of us got out of line). Whenever I would receive levels at campfires, I always felt a special twinkle in her eye. I'm sure most of the girls at that camp felt the same way, which is such a testament to the way Louise showed she cared for everyone.

During the winter months, Louise was a college counselor. When my age group reached the summer before we would start applying to colleges, she called us in and talked us through what to expect. I will always remember her telling us that camp had given us so many vital skills that would help us in the world. She told us that she knew we would excel in whatever direction we were headed.

At the end of every summer, Louise would give a packing speech to the entire camp. She would give us very specific instructions, cautioning us about putting wet clothes in our trunk without putting them in a plastic bag first. She always told this story of this one girl (we were never sure whether this girl was real or made up) who put their wet bathing suit in with their clothes. That girl's trunk was lost, and when she got it back months later, all of the clothes were mildewed. Whether that story was real or made up, I always make sure to bag any wet clothes before packing!

Perhaps the greatest gift Louise gave was the call to action. Every Sunday at the Sunday meeting, she would read a story to the camp about someone who had made a difference in the world. The story I always loved the most was Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. When I was younger, I thought the story was called The Lupine Lady and that Louise had made it up. I remember being so excited when I actually found the book in a bookstore. I will never forget the way Louise read that story and paused at the end, adding her own advice, "Make the world a better place, because you are in it." I hear her voice saying those words constantly.

She has guided me throughout every phase of my life, from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. Just last summer, I was in Maine with my family and I stopped over at Arcadia for a day to say hello. I told Louise I was changing career paths, and she said to me, "Julie, that sounds like such an exciting opportunity." She told me to say hello to my parents, that I always had a home at Camp Arcadia, and that she was so happy I stopped by.

I know that camp will never be the same without Louise there. Yet her spirit will forever be a part of this magical place that I and countless other girls call home, a place that encourages us to be our very best and do whatever we can to make our mark on the world.