Camp News & Blog

Our neighborhood

Our Neighborhood

On my way home last week, I watched Midway, a movie about a major World War II battle in the Pacific.  Throughout, the director showed both sides – the  US and Japanese –  in an honorable way. In fact, the director and producers dedicated the film to the sailors from both sides at the end of the movie.

The film reminded me of the many wars fought throughout time on this small planet. They were waged for different reasons: power, resources, influence, retribution, etc. The one common factor: one set of humans and their tools against another set of humans and their corresponding tools.

We humans are now locked in another battle. This one, though, is different. Rather than it being against each other, it’s all of us against something that doesn’t care where we are from, what we look like, what car we drive, etc. COVID-19 can affect us all.

Being Neighborly

A teacher once taught a lesson about loving our neighbors. He did so in dramatic fashion, making a member of a despised culture the ‘hero.’

Here’s the short version: A man had been beaten up, robbed and left for dead. Many people who were well thought of in ‘their neighborhood’ walked by, excusing their lack of lending assistance for multiple reasons. Then a member of a despised culture stopped, showed mercy, humility, and love by helping the man and setting him up to be healed with no thought of repayment.

The punchline: the person from a despised ‘neighborhood’ had been the true neighbor. He’d loved the injured as he did himself regardless of anything else – race, creed, color or religion.

Our Neighborhood

How big is your neighborhood? At camp, we’ve got a fun bunch of us. But if we compare our camp with all the camps in the US, it’s a very, very small neighborhood. 

Our Earth is pretty big, right? It’s measured at 24,901 miles around the equator. However, when you compare the Earth to our solar system, it’s pretty small. Compare it to our larger galaxy, it’s smaller still.

For comparison sake, it would take you about 45 hours to circumnavigate the Earth on a plane. To get to Pluto and back, it would take 25 years and a really big rocket ship. To edge of our galaxy and back? That’s currently estimated at 220 million years.  

So, when you compare it to the larger context, our Earth – our neighborhood – is pretty small. Mr. Fred Rogers touched on this a lot over his many decades of service. He didn’t care what you looked like, where you were from, or what was in your bank account. You were his neighbor and he treated you with kindness, patience, respect, and love. Period.

In other words, we are all neighbors. And, until we find life off world, we are the only neighbors we’ve got.

Our Current Battle

In case you haven’t noticed, there is a virus in the neighborhood. We’ve got to work together to stamp it out.

A powerful politician once admonished his ‘troops’ not to let a crisis go to waste. Whether you agreed or not with his politics or timing is irrelevant. This is one such crisis but not in the terms he meant.

This is not an opportunity to place blame. It’s an opportunity to realize that all of us in this tiny little neighborhood are in a fight against something that threatens us all. The good news? There are very simple and powerful ways to defeat it.

First, remain calm and patient. We humans have gotten through much worse. Secondly, wash your hands really well. If you aren’t sure how, here you go. The third is stay away from other people as much as you can for the time being, especially if you feel crummy.

Campers, we are most worried about those with challenged immune systems and the elderly. It would be neighborly of us to do our best to reduce the spread of this disease any way we can. (Here’s a great infographic that explains things well to young and old people alike.)

Weequahic Neighbors

So, while this time is certainly strange for us, it’s also an opportunity to remember that we humans, despite our differences, are all neighbors. Let’s decide to be good ones for each other.

Heck, if enough of us work at this long enough, maybe everyone will start acting the same way. When that happens, our Earth will feel a little bit more like a summer at Weequahic. Talk with you next week.

Tubing

Constraints

We just enjoyed one more day than we had last year or the year before that or the year before that. We got a bonus day: February 29th.

But did we change anything? Did you spend the whole day reveling in something you rarely if ever enjoy? Perhaps a swim in a chocolate fountain? Maybe you painted your room some really fun colors. Perhaps you spent the entire day with the people who bring out the best in you, laughing to the point of snarfing.

The funny thing is that the calendar is just a constraint for our planning. Our time on earth didn’t change just because the calendar said we had an extra day. We got to enjoy (or not depending on your choice of attitude) the same about of time on the 29th as we did the 28th of February.

Helpful Constraints

Did you know that the beloved children’s book Green Eggs and Ham came from a bet? A good friend bet Dr. Seuss that he couldn’t write a great children’s book using 50 words or less. (Who do you think won the bet?)

What other constraints are useful? We present a number at camp with which our campers and staff are familiar.

No cell phones. No technology except for something that only plays music. We have set bed- times and wake-up times. We have some choice in the Dining Hall but that list is about 5 or 6 items long rather than a full menu at a restaurant. The speed our waterski and tubing boat stays constrained to safe (and fun!) speeds.

When you think about it, we’ve got a LOT more constraints in camp than we do at home on a relaxed weekend. And yet… camp is more fun than a lazy weekend at home. In fact, I would argue that we have more fun at camp BECAUSE of the constraints rather than in spite of them.

We aren’t trying to decide between 50 different ideas of what to do this afternoon. You aren’t trying to decide where to spend your time online. There are no worries about picking your food from a long list of options or your clothes out of your ample closet.

At Weequahic, we narrow things down to the essential, to the events and activities and friends and mentors that help create amazing. These are the situations in which you can flourish, which bring out your best self.

No distractions. No unlimited choice. Just the people and the moments that matter.

Those are the kind of constraints we need in our lives. Have a great weekend!

Performing or Living

We all spend a good bit of time on social media. Whether it’s Insta, TikTok, Snap, Facebook… it absorbs a lot of our time.  We spend most of that time watching rather than producing or commenting. In the supposedly social world online, we are consumers more than anything else.

Sometimes, we put our own thoughts, videos or comments ‘out there’ for others to consume. Hopefully, they react positively, showering our output with favorable reviews, likes, or, even better, comments and shares. Sometimes, we get the opposite: negative reviews. Sometimes it’s even worse – no response at all.

Performing

In these situations, regardless of the outcome, we are performing, aren’t we? We are putting some form of performance out into the medium to which, we hope, others will react. We are hoping to delight, confound, inform, entertain, or shout down.

Shakespeare has a widely known quote about this idea of performance:

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players….”

The same can be said for our homes, classrooms, offices or bunks. Do we play the class clown? What about the studious one? Do we play the martyr. How about the ‘glitter’ or the ‘glue?’

Coming through middle school, I decided I’d play ‘the nice one.’ It helped me with the teachers, certainly, though it didn’t play as well with the other kids. Thankfully, I had two fantastic friends who stuck with me no matter what so it didn’t matter what the others said or thought.

Living

But what happens when we stop performing? When we drop the mask?

‘No [one], for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be true.’

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

Normally, we drop the mask around those who make us feel most safe, the most like ourselves. It’s not about what you are trying to be for others’ approval or expectations. It’s just about being who we actually are.

That’s when we start really living.

Think about the times when you’ve been the most alive, the most excited to be yourself without exception or concern or fear or embellishment. Was it when you rocked a test? How about when you competed and won… or come up just short? Maybe it was in your bunk at camp surrounded by your people.

Looking back over my life to this point, I clearly see the times I wore a mask and performed: my first semester in college, the first graduate course I took as an undergrad, when I wanted to impress a young lady, my first (and second) summer running camp. None of those situations went well.

Lessons Make Us

Without those lessons, I could never have truly learned what makes me come alive.

What are those, you ask? For me, it’s spending time around the campfire with our campers and staff, wrestling with my boys, sitting on the couch with Kate and talking about something we’ve read or listened to, helping a young person grow into a competent, confident adult, cooking something really good….

Do I still perform from time to time? Yes. But those moments are much fewer and further between. And, I’m much better about recognizing those moments, dropping the mask, and returning to the living.

Performing all the time is exhausting. You’ve got to think about the audience, gauge their reactions and change accordingly. It’s a constant juggle and struggle in which even victories are tiring.

Instead, spend more time on being who you are right now or the person you are striving to be. (For example, I’m striving to be a person who eats more salads!) The people in your life who really matter will love you and support you and push you in all the right ways.

Who you are and who you will become is worthy of that love and support and pushing. So, let’s drop our masks, just be ourselves and enjoy it.

Have a great weekend.

(A great book on this subject is Awareness by Anthony De Mello.)