A Camp Ode to Joy

“He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew in…that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars.” – Jack London, Call of the Wild

I love this quote from Call of the Wild. It encapsulates what one sees walking around Camp Weequahic during our evening activities, seeing the kids in the dance hall performing with their friends, sliding around Sly Lake on the tube, and dashing up the sidelines with the ball in hand:

Joy.

The gift of camp is, for many, the experience of joy. While we can’t live at camp year-round (mores the pity), it doesn’t diminish our need for joy. So, in a season that talks about joy often, the question is a natural one: how do we get to ‘joy?’

Here are a few ideas from some authors (and campers) who often teach me.

It’s About the People

“To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” – Mark Twain

When our campers do something amazing, they share it with their friends. Most of the time, their buddies are right there alongside them to celebrate. However, our choice-based program allows great friends to try different things – a little separation is a good thing!

Walking through the Dining Hall at lunch illustrates this perfectly. The conversations are full of laughter, cheers, and wonder. “You did that?! That’s amazing!” Campers are not bragging – they are searching for joy by sharing it with their friends.

This is why we spend so much time and effort helping campers build friendships at Weequahic. First-time campers are justifiably nervous about the new experience. Once they have some friends with whom they share their joy, the first-time camper blooms.

Have something joyful? Get the most out of it by sharing it with a friend who’ll love it, too.

It’s About the New

“The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” – John Krakauer

With the holidays upon us, there will be many gifts given and enjoyed. So many will be treasured and loved for a long time. Other gifts won’t be so lucky in their length of service.

There are many times that I received a gift that brought some joy quickly. However, once the ‘newness’ of the thing – a video game, a toy, etc…. – wore off, it was no longer fun and quickly forgotten. I see it in our own boys from time to time.

Joy comes from exploring and finding something new. Discovering something you did not know before brings delight – a new skill, a new idea, or a outlook. Pushing past (normally self-set) boundaries opens up new realms of joy because you now have a larger world.

Combine these new discoveries with those close to you and you’ve got a potent ‘joy mix’ on your hands!

It’s About the Attitude

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Let’s be honest: sometimes you have to fake it to make it. Here’s my train of thought on this point.

Point #1: Our minds are set up to ‘value’ negative things three times more than positive things due to our needing to survive way, way before Starbucks and cell phones. While saber-tooth tigers are no longer a threat, our brains haven’t much changed their weighting system.

Point #2: We’ve gotten to a place of ‘happy stimulus overload.’ As I write this, I’m sitting on a plane flying at 35,000 feet from Tel Aviv to London (and then, hopefully, to Atlanta!) I’ve got 42 moive options, a whole host of tv stations, books, newspapers, and games at my fingertips. Meh…. It’s ok.

We fail to notice the pleasures around us because there are so many! (Personal note: As someone who travels a lot and has been incredibly lucky in life, I find myself being ‘meh’ too often about these incredible experiences. I’m a work in progress, too!)

Point #3: When you smile (with both your mouth and your eyes), you physically and chemically alter yourself, if ever so briefly, into a new state. You become happier along with being more receptive, patient, and empathetic. It also changes the sounds coming out of your mouth.

What do these three ideas have to do with joy? They tell me we have to decide to battle our natural setting (attending to the ‘bad’ a lot more than the ‘good’), treat the world around us with more gratitude, and smile. That combo will give joy a great chance to enter our lives.

Last Days of 2017

So, in these last of 2017, join me in taking a few minutes (or more) to reflect on joy. Watching our campers each summer has taught me a lot about the subject. Their joy has reminds me that sharing new experiences with friends (both new and old) brings even more joy. And, smiling will help joy walk into my life more often.

I hope these ideas will help you en-joy the last handful of days in ’17. Have a great week!