Archive for September, 2017

Drop the Rope

Friday, September 29th, 2017

Today at sundown marks the start of an important day in the life of many of our camp families.

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement in English, is one of if not the most important holidays in the Jewish calendar. It’s a day for examining your actions and thoughts over the previous year, asking for forgiveness from both God and those you’ve wronged, and pledging to do better. It’s also a day for charity.

Asking for forgiveness and atoning for one’s digressions is important. First, it shows that you recognize that you’ve done wrong. Second, it allows forgiveness to enter into the equation – both you forgiving yourself and allowing the other you’ve wronged to do the same.

Sometimes, this means letting go of anger or jealousy or contempt or fear. Carrying those emotions around is like a big block tied around your neck that you’ve got to lug around. Recognize what it is, ask for forgiveness, set that puppy down and walk away from it!

That leads me to story that is applicable and, I hope, useful for you.

Elephants May Not Forget….

A few years ago, a family traveled to India to learn more about the country and culture. In their travels, they stopped at an elephant preserve where, they were told, one could walk very close to the enormous beasts.

As they entered, the father noticed the attendants walking the world’s largest and most powerful animal around by a short length of rope.

Concerned for their safety, the father cried out, “What are you doing?! That elephant can snap the rope anytime it wants and trample us all!”

“Sir,” the attendant replied, “please calm down and let me explain.

You see, when all the elephants here are born, we place a rope around their leg and tie the other end to a large tree. The young elephant is not strong enough to break the rope or move the tree.

Over time, the elephant learns that the rope controls it and this knowledge changes the elephant forever. While it’s certainly strong enough to break the rope, these elephants don’t know it.”

Drop the Rope

Imagine that – a small rope holding back one of the most powerful animals in the world. If the elephant only knew, it would be off to the races and fast!

But, the elephant would have to recognize the rope for what it truly is – a small thing, which could easily be broken or dropped, that has been given inordinate power over their actions and beliefs.

How about you? What ropes have you allowed to be placed on your leg (by others or yourself) that are holding you back? How you deal with your friends or family? Feeling guilty about something in the past or future? Being angry, lazy, rude, or jealous?

Regardless of your beliefs, spending a hour or day thoughtfully reviewing your past deeds and atoning for transgressions is a useful and beneficial practice. It will lead you to places you may not want to visit inside yourself or with others. However, the power of forgiveness is an awesome thing and I wish you all to experience it.

Talk with you next week.

(This story came from Joshua Medcalf’s Pound the Stone. I highly recommend it to all.)

Building Confidence Through Commitment

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

I’m so lucky to have tons of opportunities to connect with our campers throughout the summer. While all are a lot of fun, one of my favorite evenings each summer is spent with our rising 10th and 11th graders.

On separate nights for the young ladies and young men, we gather at the beach, cook together, and sit around the campfire to talk and laugh and learn about big issues.

This past summer, one of our CITs asked an important question and I didn’t do a very good job answering it. So, I’m going to try to do better now.

The question was:

How do you become confident?

It’s important question, especially for young people. It’s important because there are going to be a lot of times in our lives when you don’t feel confident but you really, really want to be.

Here’s the thing: when you are interested in something, you come up with all these excuses and plans and reasons and circumstances on why you can’t or it won’t work.

But if you are committed to something, you find a way.

So, to me, the more important question is ‘What are you going to completely commit yourself to?’

Creating the Future

Now, that’s a bit dangerous because it requires you to think a bit about the future. You can’t truly commit to something unless you can clearly envision what your world will be like when you get there.

The most common way to deal with the future is to try to predict it. To be in the right place at the right time with the right skills or investments.

A far more successful and reliable approach is to invent the future. Not all of it, mind you. Just a little part. But enough of a part to make a difference.

And, how do you invent that future when you don’t have the right skills/background/experience/knowledge? You do it by controlling two things you have total and complete power over:

Your attitude and your effort.

You can bring more generosity of spirit, more enthusiasm, more kindness, more resilience, more positive energy, more bravery and more curiosity to the situation than anyone else. Ask for help, accept your mistakes and learn from them. Get back up over and over and over again.

Because you choose to. Because you are committed.

And, one day down the road, after you’ve gained experience through the pursuit of that commitment, you’ll find yourself confident.

The Next Question

So, the next question would be, “What do you value so much that you are willing to put in that much effort, time and passion?” Just like Weequahic’s program, it’s your choice….

Have a great week!

Teaching Trees

Friday, September 15th, 2017

Did you know the oldest living thing in the world is an almost 5,000 year old tree named Methuselah? We know it’s in California but not exactly where – the Forestry Service keeps that secret.

Another interesting fact – the LARGEST living thing in the world is also a tree – the General Sherman tree also in California. It’s 275’ tall and 36’ around at the base. It’s enormous. Huge.

I thought a lot about trees this past summer and used them in one of our Campfire talks. In fact, as I was walking around camp one evening thinking about the upcoming talk, a story from one of my teachers popped into my head.

Lessons from the Orchard

One day, a lady was walking down a beautiful country lane. To her left were fields of vegetables. On her right, there was an incredible apple orchard. Trees as far as the eye could see and all full of apples.

As she walked along, she came to an apple tree lying on the ground. It was huge, and old, and had more apples than any other tree. But it was laying on the ground.

She hopped the fence to inspect. Did the wind knock it down? Were there too many apples on it? In a few moments, the owner of the orchard pulled up and greeted the inquisitive lady. When she asked why the tree fell, the farmer pointed out the worms and the rot that toppled the tree.

“What do you do know?” she asked the farmer.

“The only thing you can do,” he replied. “Collect the fruit and burn the tree.”

(The crazy thing about this lesson popping into my head on a late Wednesday night is that the very next morning one of our oldest, biggest crab apple trees fell at Weequahic!)

Lessons in Life

We all make mistakes – and we are supposed to! The only learning or growth that happens is on the other side of ‘comfort’ or your current knowledge.

The bigger mistake is failing to look at the lessons from the mistake and move forward. Rather, a lot of times, we spend hours or days obsessing about the failure. We beat ourselves up about the mistake or we glibly move on without a second thought.

I feel both responses are mistakes. Remember, everyone makes mistakes. Don’t compound the mistake by failing to learn from it.

We need to be more like the farmer – collect the fruit and burn the tree. Take the lessons from your mistake and move forward with humility and purpose. It’ll make for a better life down the road. Have a great week!

Profiles in Courage

Friday, September 8th, 2017

The following was adapted from our final Campfire talk during Summer ‘17. With our families in Houston and South Florida dealing with the forces of nature, I thought it would be appropriate. All of our thoughts and prayers are with y’all!

It takes courage to…. Remain Hopeful

A bit more than 100 years ago, Ernest Shakleton decided he wanted to be the first to cross the Antarctic by land.  This was well before good heaters, engines, and safe/fast boats as we know them today.

The goal was a big deal in England and elsewhere. In fact, his advertisement for staff is almost as famous as what later happened:

“Men wanted for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant threat of danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success.”

Shakelton and the 27 men signed on set sail on his boat Endurance for the South Pole. All was going well until disaster struck at the very edge of Antartica – the Endurance, one of the strongest boats on the seas at the time, was trapped by ice.

Over the following week, the boat was slowly crushed and destroyed leaving 27 men thousands of miles from home, stuck on the ice with little food, few supplies, and no ability to call for help.

How does Shakelton respond? The expedition’s doctor documented the explorer’s words:

“It’s a pity but that cannot be helped. It’s the men we have to think about.”

Over the next 22 months, Shakleton’s team lived on the ice, battled the elements, made an impossible sea voyage to an island 800 miles away to find help for the whole party, climbed over and down a mountain having not eaten in weeks, found help, and sailed back immediately to get his comrades.

The most amazing thing? Every one of Shakleton’s men made it home safely. His courage led to hope not only for himself but also for those for whom he cared.

It takes courage to…. Stand Up for What’s Right

In 1955, our country was not in a good place. There were terrible laws in some states requiring people to sit in different spots, use different water fountains, and go to different schools because of the color of their skin.

One woman, Rosa Parks, had been affected by this system of repression for her 42 years of life. Coming home one evening from her job as a seamstress, Mrs. Parks was asked to move from her seat to make room for a white man. She said ‘No.’

She knew what would happen and it did – she was arrested and taken to jail. Can you believe that? Just for not moving to the back of the bus.

Some thought she must have been tired, the reason for her not moving. Mrs. Parks responded:

“I wasn’t physically tired… No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

This was a courageous thing to do. What is courage but being fearful and doing the right thing anyway?

But, Mrs. Parks was not done yet.

Later that evening, after being bailed out of prison, Mrs. Parks agreed to be the focal point in a lawsuit brought against the City of Birmingham and the face of a boycott that lasted for over 300 days.

In the end, through threats and difficulty, right was awarded and those awful laws were changed.

It takes courage to…. Be Vulnerable

A very smart person named Dr. Brene Brown has spent a long time studying the important topics of courage, belonging, worth, and vulnerability. Let’s start with courage:

It comes from ‘coer’ which is latin for ‘heart.’ In Dr. Brown’s words, courage means to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.

And here’s the thing – you are not perfect. You already know this. You have a few habits your want to change, a thought or two you’d like to not have, automatic responses that you would like to be different.

So, you have to have the courage to be imperfect. This takes compassion to be kind to yourself, first. Then, you can build connection to others as a result of your authenticity. But to be authentic, you have to be vulnerable.

It’s not fun but it’s necessary. And, you don’t get a guarantee that it will go your way. But here’s the important thing Dr. Brown found out – vulnerability is birthplace of love, joy, creativity, and belonging.

So, in order to ‘belong’ you have to be vulnerable. In order to be vulnerable, you have to be courageous.

The Need for Courage

As that really old dude said thousands of years ago, “Courage is the first of human values because it makes all others possible.” (It was Aristotle.)

The good news? Courage is like a muscle – the more you use it, the more you’ll have. Start small and start soon. While you might not ever be trapped on the ice for two years, you will have moments in your life that call for a courageous decision made or action taken.

We wish for all of our families (and everyone else) involved with recovering from hurricanes a quick and safe return to their lives.

Why I Can’t Wait to Come Back to Camp

Monday, September 4th, 2017

For those who have never worked at a summer camp before, there are many questions to ask and ideas to consider about life at a summer camp, but at Camp Weequahic, returning staff can put all worries to rest about what it is like to work at the most special summer camp this world has to offer.

For starters, working at a summer camp is all about helping kids grow and become better individuals and one of the most rewarding aspects of working at camp is the ability to watch all sorts of talented kids grow and master what they love. More often than not, the staff returns to see the campers they have helped, anticipating all the potential within them for another summer at camp.

Along with the campers, all the staff members look forward to spending another summer with friends they have met from all over the world. Camp Weequahic nurtures friendships not just for campers, but for staff as well, and Camp Weequahic is a place that allows people to strengthen friendships with people from Australia, South Africa, England and any place imaginable.

Because of all the people staff members are able to work with, Camp Weequahic is the most positive working environment, everyone is happy to spend another day of the summer with their co-counselors and campers. It never really feels like work because you always have that much fun wherever and whatever you’re doing at Camp Weequahic. With all these positive elements of working at Camp Weequahic, it’s no wonder so many staff members return each summer to once again feel the magic of Camp Weequahic, a place that is truly worth the ten for two.

 

 

 

 

 

We Either Win or…

Friday, September 1st, 2017

So, how do you finish that phrase? There are lots of options.

‘We lose’ is the most often used word for that line of thinking. It’s all about the result: it’s either ‘win’ or ‘lose’; there is no in-between.

As a camp director, I get to help some young people manage the ‘we cry’ reaction. And, yes, they get a lot better about it over the years. You would think it’s all boys but it’s not.

We even hear some people finish the sentence with ‘we laugh’. As a competitive person myself, I’m not a fan of that mentality. I certainly want laughter involved with competition – it is supposed to be joyful to play. But, if I don’t win, I’m not always going to laugh.

Weequahic’s Answer

You may have other ideas on what should finish the sentence. To us at Weequahic, the best way to finish ‘We either win or…’ phrase is this: we learn.

Thomas Edison famously said ‘I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that do not work.’ We all see a great deal better for his persistence in learning. Failure to learn from the situation is the truest failure because it dooms us to repeat the same mistakes over and over.

Now, just because we decide (and, yes, it is a decision) to approach winning or learning in this manner doesn’t mean the lessons won’t be uncomfortable or, at times, painful.

We’ve learned a lot over the past decade of running Weequahic and have changed everything from the menu to the snacks to how we do our programming and more. Some of that learning has been joyful but a lot of it challenging. But, I believe we are a better camp for those lessons. And, I know our campers are better off for this mentality, too.

As we approach a new school year, our campers will have many opportunities to either win or learn. (Hopefully, they will learn in both situations!) Our hope is that they’ll work hard to either win or learn in every opportunity they find.

 Good luck to everyone at school this year. We can’t wait to see you back at Weequahic for Summer ’18!