Camp News & Blog

Gratitude Quotes to Ponder

As we move into Thanksgiving, we celebrate one of Camp Weequahic’s values: gratitude. As a reader, I’m often highlighting what much smarter and more eloquent people say about one of my favorite subjects. Here are a few quotes that stood out recently. I hope they’ll be helpful to you as well.

Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.

Eckhart Tolle

We all have so much. Start simple and close: with yourself! Your body is this incredible creation that leaps and loves and learns. You are expressive and impressive. As one writer said, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. You’ve got a family that loves you. You have friends that care. And, if you feel like you don’t, give me a call. I’ll be your friend.

When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.

Maya Angelou

Ms. Angelou was a marvelous storyteller. I love how she connects two personal choice actions (give and accept) with the personal choice attitudes (cheerfully and gratefully.) We don’t have to give and when we do, do so cheerfully. It’s another gift to the recipient.

We don’t have to receive the gift. In fact, many of us were pretty closed off emotionally because of the ripple effects of the pandemic. Some still are. In order to truly give and receive a gift, you’ve got to open your hands. Take a listen to Director Kate who has a great short talk about this very idea.

We should certainly count our blessings, but we should also make our blessings count.

Neal Maxwell

You’ve got a gift. It was given to you at birth. You didn’t have to do anything for it and you have to do a lot to uncover it. But, once you do, it’ll be one of the most important experiences of your life. You see, it’s not enough just to have a gift or a blessing. It’s so much more important to share it with others.

You see, we humans were built for the campfire, for the community. Failure to find and then share your unique gift with those around you is a tragedy. You’ve got so much, even if you don’t know it yet. You will. Keep digging… gratefully.

Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.

Marcel Proust

This is my favorite because it reminds me so much of camp… and my family. When we feel like we are at our absolute best, we are surrounded by those who love us and challenge us, who bring joy and comfort, who laugh with and lean in. If we do not express our gratitude toward them, we risk having a barren garden of joy.

Weequahic, we wish y’all are wonderful and thoughtful Thanksgiving. And, for our friends and families outside of the US, we hope you’ll celebrate along with us. We’ve so much for which to be grateful.

Camp Weequahic Pennsylvania Sleep Away Camp

Mac’s Lessons

It’s been a few weeks since we lost our dog Mac. The outpouring of support has been heartwarming and greatly appreciated. As I said in my earlier post, he was a damn good dog that we are going to miss greatly. And, he left us with a number of important lessons that I wanted to share.

Flawed Can Be Perfect

When Kate asked me 11 years ago if we should go ‘look at a puppy’, my response was no ever goes and just looks at a puppy. “No, this one has already been promised to a breeder out in California,” she responded. So, I relented. We loaded the young Kelly boys into the mini-van and off we went.

Of course, once we got to the breeder, Sumo (as Mac was originally known due to his ample puppy-girth) was now available. He’d been found to have a ‘defective’ internal part. It was not something you (or Mac) would ever notice. It wouldn’t affect his life in anyway. But the breeder in California didn’t want him because he was ‘flawed.’

Well, he certainly turned out perfect for us.   

Be Excited to See… Everyone

Arriving home from trips visiting prospective families, I knew I would get a nice ‘welcome back’ from Kate and the boys. But Mac’s tail-wagging and smiling and barking routine was fantastic.

He didn’t save that just for me. He was excited to greet everyone: our UPS driver when she arrived at the front porch, Assistant Director Sue upon her daily stop by our home office, Kate’s parents when they dropped something off or came for dinner, and the families around the neighborhood.

Everyone got a wag and a sniff from Mac. Sometimes they even got a tooth-baring smile. It didn’t matter if he knew you for years or it was a first time. While some would say that was just Mac wanting some attention, I’d ask this question: ‘But did his greeting make you feel good?’

Of course. It’s always nice when someone is excited to see you.

Discipline = Freedom

When I grew up in Georgia, dogs were allowed to roam the neighborhood. (Fine… insert the crotchety-old-man music here.) My first dog would go off for gallivants without a care. She’d always return, sometimes days later and normally with a new friend in tow.

Today, dogs are much more contained. They are always on leash when out and, if in a yard, sit behind a metal or electric fence of some sort. I can’t help but feel sad for these pack animals who were built to roam. But most don’t have the discipline for such freedom.

At camp, Mac had the run of the place, no leash and no fence required. Why? Because he had demonstrated a lot of discipline during his time with us. He didn’t eat off the table. He didn’t run after cars. If we asked him to sit or stay or get down, he would.

Let’s be clear: this discipline did not come naturally or easily. Kate and I (but mostly Kate) spent a great deal of time training, walking, correcting and caring for Mac.

Over time, he learned that because of the discipline he showed in many little things, he would gain freedom to move about camp as he wished. And, his continued discipline demonstrated around the kids and staff of Weequahic kept that freedom open.

This is the same with us. If we are disciplined with our eating or exercise or money or impulses, we’ll have more freedom to enjoy things both now and in the future. But that discipline, while vitally important, doesn’t come easy. It takes a lot of training… and a bit of love.

Lessons from a Dog’s Life

Mac certainly taught us more than just the lessons above. Some lessons he tried to teach never quite took. For instance, we like the video drone more than he did. And, we’d rather not try to get a fish off a hook with our mouths. Both seemed to work well for Mac, though.

The biggest lesson is one of companionship. To Mac, we were part of his pack, his tribe. He didn’t talk, he didn’t put a hand over the shoulder or give advice. His simple presence was enough. And maybe that’s enough for all of us.

Have a great week, everyone!

Fear and Its Antidote

Yes, Halloween is upon us and we are all in the mood for ‘fright.’ (That goes double for us in the Kelly household as our middle son, Jack, just got his drivers license today!) But ‘scary’ kids and the challenge of seeing a child drive away did not get me thinking about today’s subject: fear.

I blame a quote I recently re-encountered.

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer…. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

from Dune by Frank Hebert

I used to think of needing to build up armor around myself to protect against fear. If I could simply protect myself or my loved ones from the need to fear, I’d have ‘won.’ But that’s not how fear works.

The Fear Reaction

Let’s take, for example, a camper who gets onto the bus to camp for the first time.

The act itself is simple, isn’t it? Walk up a few steps, down a little pathway, and plop down into the comfy seat set aside just for you. If you want to add a bit of complexity, you figure out what to do with your bus bag and, hopefully, smile and introduce yourself to the other new camper sitting next to you.

But, for many of our first-time campers, those simple action-steps are accompanied with a lot of internal perceptions, questions and reactions: will the kids be nice? What are my parents thinking? Wait a second, I’m going where? What if….

Those internal perceptions accompanying a seemingly set of actions can trigger the fear response, an emotional overload which leads to withdrawal for some and tears for others.

In this situation, ‘armour’ is not what a camper needs. Instead, they need the internal strength to let the fear response wash over them and leave. Want know what helps develop this internal awareness, this internal strength?

Stories and Effort

We all are immersed in stories from our earliest days. Great stories show people who overcome challenges, who live lives of purpose and meaning, and demonstrate the power of community. As we age, we switch from the make-believe to the stories of great humans from history like Dr. King, Mother Theresa, Mrs. Parks, and Churchill.

By learning from others, even from the likes of Harry Potter or Hermione Granger, we begin to develop the story we tell ourselves. If we are fortunate, we begin to internalize these stories in a way that adds to our internal strength. We see ourselves reaching out to those in need, rising to the occasion, overcoming challenge.

When you combine these stories with purposeful effort, you supercharge the feelings of confidence and competence. You give yourself the best chance to learn from mistakes and move forward. And, you attract others to your side to lend a hand.

Summer Camp Solution

That’s the beauty of camp. It combines a lot of great stories, a ton of support from engaged staff and lots of opportunities to practice. When done well, these aspects come together to create a virtuous cycle of increasing internal strength and connection and community.

Does fear go away? Nope. There will always be situations when it washes in. But, with stories and effort and community, fear is more likely to wash in and out, leaving nothing but your true, valiant self behind.

So, for our first-time campers above: recognize the anxiety about getting into a new situation and let it blow away. You are more excited about going to camp than anything else. Stick your hand out, smile and put in the effort. You are going to do great! We’ll be there by you as along as you need.

Happy Halloween!