We are getting very close to our national celebration of fear and mischief. No, I’m not talking about the upcoming the Presidential Election. Halloween is just around the corner! As such, I thought it would be a good time to talk about one of our major values: COURAGE.
There are so many great quotes on courage:
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao Tzu
“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” – J.K. Rowling
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill
My two favorites come from Maya Angelou and Nelson Mandella, two great teachers who showed extraordinary courage throughout their lives. Ms. Angelou said, “courage is the most important of all the virtues because, without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”
I couldn’t agree more. Honesty sometimes comes with a price. To be charitable, you have to be willing to give what is yours, even if you feel you don’t have enough. Kindness can be difficult to lend in situations that demand it. Patience certainly requires courage to allow the situation to come to the final result. Humility is sometimes described as ‘courage of the heart.’
Ok, so if courage is so important to all the other virtues, then, what is it? Mr. Mandella described it thusly: “courage is not the absence of fear but the triumph over it.”
At camp, we get to practice that triumph a lot. I use ‘get to’ because, at Weequahic, almost everything is a choice. (Check out our post on friendship to learn about what we require.)
Whether we are jumping off the pamper pole, getting up on stage for the first time, trying something new, or reaching out to build a new friendship, we all practice courage each and every day. The best part is that we get to do it together with friends and mentors who are practicing the same thing.
How are you practicing your courage back home? Just like your muscles, courage gets smaller when not used. Here are some suggestions to grow your courage each day: Be kind to someone when it may be easier to go with the crowd and be mean or, worse, ignore them. Be patient with a younger sibling. Tell the truth. Try something new.
Spend some time with your fear by recognizing it and doing it says you can’t do anyway. When you practice it, your courage will blossom. And, as your courage grows, so will your horizons.
At Weequahic, we ask our campers. Sometimes, they are straight up questions like “What evening activity are you excited about?” or “How do you like the meals?” or “What activity do you want to add to your schedule?”
Other questions come in the form of challenges such as “How will your team get a person from the dock to the beach using cardboard and duct tape?”, “Do you think that steak is done?”, or “How amazing can you make up the guys for Ms. Weequahic?”
My favorite evening of questions involves Weequahic’s oldest campers and their counselors. After a great evening snack, we sit around the campfire while I ask our young men “Who is the best man that you know?” and our young ladies “What choices are you going to make in your life?” The discussion that follows both questions is always engaging and interesting.
Those are just some of the questions we ask at camp. But our time at Weequahic lasts only six weeks each year. That leaves forty-six weeks to enjoy in the world before returning our summer home. So, when you are back in the world, what questions do you ask yourself?
The normal questions students ask themselves are pretty similar and widespread: What college should I go to? Will I make the team? What will make me happy? How much money can I make? What is my passion? What do I want out of life?
The problem with these questions is that they keep your focus solely on yourself. I don’t know about you, but the learning I get from just me is pretty limited… ok, it’s incredibly limited! In order to learn and improve, I’ve got to be connected with others and get some real experience.
Dr. Tim Elmore suggests we replace the ‘normal’ questions with different ones. What problem do I want to solve? How can I add value? What are the needs or opportunities around me? What do I have to give? And, what is life asking of me?
These questions keep us focused on those around us and their answers provide a clearer personal path ahead both in the short and the long term.
So, take a few moments back home to imagine yourself around the campfire with your closest friends. The sun is setting over Main Campus, the fish nip at the water from time to time, and you can hear the crackle of the wood as it lights our faces. Once you are in that place, ask yourself a question….
There are so many benefits of being a part of a summer camp community. At Camp Weequahic, we believe our campers have a number of important outcomes. Here are some of the most important outcomes from summer camp in our eyes:
Camp makes you…
We live in world awash in connection devices (social media, pocket computers, etc.) that actually inhibit the deep connections we so desperately need. We spend more time focused on ourselves, particularly in how we relate to people we see ‘onscreen,’ rather than attempting to get a sense of how others feel. The latter, also called empathy, represents one of the most powerful tools in human existence. And, thankfully, camp creates deeper feelings of empathy among everyone involved.
We are going way past ‘entertained’ or ‘amused.’ And, we are not talking about just ‘being happy’ as there is a lot more to it than that. ‘Joyful’ is a larger state of mind that encompasses confidence, mirth, attitude, and connection to something greater than yourself. Our kids lose a bit of themselves, the part that inhibits them from trying new things, building new friends, and truly connecting. The walls we build come down and the joy bubbles in.
Courage is all about fighting the fear you have by doing what is right. It’s about saying ‘yes’ when it may be scary, reaching out to a new kid who seems not connected to the group, asking for or being open to proffered help, sleeping away from home for the first time, and more. Each summer, our campers build a deeper vault of experiences from which to pull greater and greater amounts of the courage they need in the future.
We have enough demands on our time back ‘in the world’ and I’m not going mention any of those demands. You know what we demand at camp? It’s pretty simple: be kind to one another. That’s it! (Well… besides no boys in the girls’ bunks or girls in the boys’ bunks.) When you are kind to others, you are giving a carefree gift. When those around you reflect that kindness back, the effect mushrooms into a community in which people are joyful, more connected, more courageous, and more engaged.
We have been blessed to see young girls and boys grow into mature young woman and young men over the past decade at Weequahic. It’s a complete gift to be a part of their upbringing. Some show up at camp as old souls while others take a bit more time to grow into themselves. Regardless of the path, when our campers end their CIT summer, each one has shown tremendous growth in responsibility, leadership, empathy, independence, connection, and joy. These qualities grow each summer to their blossoming in the CIT experience. It’s hard to express how rewarding that is for us.
When all is said and done, a summer at Weequahic makes each camper and staff member a part of something larger than themselves. They become a part of a community that has seven decades of tradition, growth, joy, and wonder behind it and many, many more to come. We are so thankful to be a part of this thriving community of young people and are excited to see where it takes us next.
We are all pretty good at hearing things. As I write this, I can here my neighbor’s mower, Mac barking at a squirrel in the yard (again), and Mr. Nichols typing away on his computer. But, while I hear those different noises, I’m not listening to them. In fact, I’m doing my best to listen to my own voice as I write this short Friday night Campfire idea for you all.
Most of the time, when we listen, we are spending more time preparing what to say rather than truly understanding what the person in front of us is saying. In this fall of a Presidential campaign, there is a lot of responding and not a whole lot of understanding. And, I think, that’s a problem. A ‘YUGE’ one.
We all have the challenge of being a little ‘too long on mouth’ and ‘too short on ears.’ They do outnumber the mouth, you know. In fact, I’d even add the eyes to the mouth as listening instruments since 80% of communication is body language. What does that mean? Well… we should all listen a lot more than we talk.
Have you ever been around a really great listener? They make a difference to you. You leave their presence being more comfortable, attended to, valuable, and jazzed up. It’s such a big effect, some companies test applicants by putting them in a room with a bunch of other applicants and tell to speak about whatever they’d like. The company then hires those who show themselves the best listeners.
We do something similar in our interview process for staff and a lot of that during orientation. Our staff give up their personal time to listen to our campers. And, they are listening both with their ears and their eyes. So many times, our staff will pull one of us aside and say something like “could you keep an eye on….” That means, while things might seem great, they are concerned about a camper. Listening a campers body language and interpreting it is one of the most important skills a camp counselor can develop.
Sometimes, with great friends, not saying a word and just being together is all that needs to be said. We see that (sometimes) at camp. Most of the time, our campers and staff can’t stop talking and laughing with one another. But, every now and then, just being with one another is enough.
I’ve seen our campers sit quietly next to buddies at campfire or reading next to each other on their bunk porch before bed. In fact, I’ve had some of the best talks in my life with a friend on the basketball court when very few words were spoken but so much was said. That’s camp!
Back in the world, though, with all its distracti….
Oops, sorry, I just got a text….
As I was saying, back in the wor….
Sorry – another text…. Annoying, isn’t it?
When we are really listening to someone, the distractions may be heard but should never take our attention away from the speaker. It’s a skill that takes practice and one that is very important to develop. If you want to be a good friend, a good camp counselor, a good student, etc., learn to listen. It’s more than worth the trouble for you and those around you.