Camp News & Blog

Really Excited for You

As our community heads back to school, I’ve got one thing to say to everyone:

I’m really excited for you. You’re going to race ahead this year. You’re going to learn more than you did last year, and you’re going to feel so proud.

For most of our community, the last school year was not a great one.  We were holed up at home, connected only on the web and our collective learning was… well, pretty dismal. (This is not the fault of the teachers – they worked hard and did all they could. Kudos to them!)

The good news is that most of us are going back to school. Campers and staff of Weequahic, you have an advantage over those around you. You spent several great weeks back at camp, connected to a community that was built specifically for you. Most of your classmates can’t say the same.

Put What You’ve Learned Into The World

And, while you have a ‘leg up’, being the great people that you are, I know you’ll use your experience this summer to help others. You’ll remember what it was like to be at camp for the first few days – excited and nervous all at the same time. After being separated for so long, suddenly being ‘in the soup’ with everyone was daunting for many of us. And yet, working through those feelings of nervousness was totally worth it: we had a summer we’ll never forget.

Use what you’ve experienced this past summer to help those around you. Be patient, kind and open. Be a connector, a supporter, a friend. Put some GAC into the world. Why? Because it’ll make the little part of the world around you a better, more inviting place. You’ll make it more like camp!

(And, believe it or not, all this will make you feel good, too!)

We wish everyone a wonderful start to the school year. You are going to rock it – I know it! And, once you’ve settled in and gotten things rolling, keep thinking about camp. We’ll be thinking about you!

Can’t wait to see you back here next summer!

The Ruler

This is a story created for Campfire on July 30, 2021. Enjoy!

Not so long ago, grandmother worked with her grandchildren to pick peaches from trees outside her home. They were going to make their famous peach ice cream which the children loved.

The little boy, being a bit rambunctious and possessing a great imagination like most boys, quickly grew tired of the work. Instead, he made a crown out of the little branches and leaves, grabbed a stick from the ground and pronounced himself king of the wood.

The little girl, being just as creative and strong-willed as the little boy, decided she would be create her own kingdom. Making a crown for herself and holding an old branch as a scepter, she walked as a queen should through the yard.

The grandmother smiled at her grandchildren. Being a person with a lot of experience and a lot of love toward the children, she had grown patient and welcoming of their role playing. But this also gave her an idea.

As the little girl tried to coral the squirrels and chipmunks who loved the backyard, she spoke to her:

“Granddaughter, what kind of ruler will you be? Will you be a kind ruler or will be mean? Will you work to serve those around you or will you make decisions that will only be good for you and your closest friends?”

“I’m going to be richest, most powerful ruler in the world! Everyone will bow before me!” (Remember, she was just a little person with lots of imagination.)

“Well,” the grandmother replied, “you certainly can be that way as a ruler. But, remember, you get to choose. How do you think your subjects will respond to you?”

“They’ll have to do what I say all the time! They’ll be happy because we’ll be the best and I’ll tell them to be! And if they aren’t, I’ll throw them in the dungeon!”

The grandmother smiled and turned to the little boy.

“How about you, grandson? What kind of ruler will you be? Will you be a kind ruler or will be mean? Will you work to serve those around you or will you make decisions that will only be good for you and your closest friends?”

Being a bit older and more experienced than his younger sister, the boy sat back on his make believe thrown and said, “I want to be a good ruler. I want my people to like me… but I still want to be king. Can you be both, Grandmother?”

“Children, you get to choose how you’ll make others feel and, to a great extent, how you’ll feel about yourself. In fact, that choice may be the most important one you’ll ever make.

“Things in your life can be all about you – what others think about you, how they act around you, how they treat you. Or, you can decide to serve others, not worry about yourself so much, and draw happiness from the actual connection with those around you.”

The grandchildren were listening. There was something about their grandmother that made them want to listen. Plus, they had begun to eat the ripe peaches and they were so tasty.

“I know you each are pretending to be rulers right now. There will come a time in your lives when you’ll either pick a ruler for yourself or let one picked for you. That ‘ruler’ is an idea or way of being that you’ll listen to and follow in good times and bad.”

“What’s that ruler called,” Grandmother? the little girl asked.

“Well, there are a lot of names,” said Grandmother. “But the best one I know is called ‘attitude.’ Attitude is how you respond to the events around you and even the thoughts inside your head. And, you get to choose how you respond to everything.”

“But as a ruler, we’ll always have good days,” said the little boy.

“Oh, if only that were true, grandson. As you grow older, do me a favor and don’t hope for only good days. Instead, choose to build an attitude that will help you handle whatever bad comes your way.

“Grandchildren, if you remember nothing else, please remember this saying from one of the wisest rulers to ever live: Your life will be what your thoughts make it.

“Now, come help your old Grandmother get these peaches to the kitchen. I know two little Rulers who are excited about some ice cream.”

And they walked off together into a bright future.

Camp Weequahic sleep away camp in Pennsylvania

The Gardener and the Little Girl

*This is a story created for our July 23rd Campfire focusing on gratitude. Enjoy!

A young family purchased an old home by a pond. It shared the pond with another house that could be seen from the porch outside their kitchen. The little girl in the new house spent a lot of time outside looking at the pond… and the house next door.

You see, right next to that well-kept, neat little home was a big garden. It looked wild and beautiful and chaotic and calming all at the same time. It was very curious.  And the little old man who tended the garden was an even greater curiosity.

She couldn’t tell for certain but it seemed to the little girl that whenever the old man walked through the garden, the plants straightened just a bit more, the leaves danced, and the colors got a bit brighter. When her curiosity got the best of her, the little girl decided to investigate.

Creeping silently over to the garden – she was a little girl with very quiet feet – she began to feel happier and calmer at the same time. The air was fresher, much like the air here at camp. The sun was brighter yet not harsh. And the colors! It was like walking through a rainbow.

As she walked garden she noticed lilacs and roses and blueberries and raspberries and pears and daffodils and vines and… hm… those are briars. And, over there, she noticed some weeds. She had helped her mother pull a whole wagon load of those from around their house. And a clump of dandelions that her father really didn’t like. But these weeds had flowered and seemed to be living in harmony with the other plants.

While she was exploring a particularly full blueberry bush, the whole garden got quiet for just a moment. And then, to confirm what she had seen the days before, the old gardener walked in to his garden… and everything got taller and brighter and danced just a bit more.

Was he the reason for this change? As she hid inside the blueberry bush, the little girl watched the old man. He walked differently than most adults she knew. Rather than forging right ahead, swinging their arms and having a face set with purpose, he walked… thoughtfully and almost gingerly. He was barefoot and had a smile on his face and bent down to inspect or share a word with or clip a bit of each plant and flower and shrub and tree and weed he passed.

As he… well, almost glided up to the raspberry bush next to her hiding place, the old gardener said, “My, you raspberries look positively jealous of how full the blueberries are today.” And, with a smile on his face and twinkle in his eye, he looked right at the little girl.

She jumped back. She didn’t want to be in trouble. Rather than being mad, the old gardener sat right down in his spot, laughed, and beckoned her to come out. That’s when she noticed the baby raccoon he had in his lap. Where had that come from?

“It’s ok, dear, you can come out now. I called your mother when I saw you walk into the garden. We are old friends. She knows you are here and asked me to send you home when you are ready. Until then, would you like to share some blueberries with Forrest, here?”

At this, the little girl looked up and saw her mother on their home porch. Her mom waved and gave her the thumbs up. Everything was ok. And, though she couldn’t tell exactly, it seemed as though her mom was smiling and hugging herself.

Venturing out of her not-very-good hiding place, she sat down next to the old gardener. Even though his clothes were old and bare feet dirty from walking in the garden, he smelled fresh. And, though the sun was bright, he seemed brighter still. Forrest the raccoon jumped into her lap and began licking her fingers which were blue with blueberry juice.

“Why does the garden get brighter and taller when you come in?” she asked. She had always been very direct.

The old gardener laughed and said, “You know, it was a trick my wife taught me a long time ago. Back then, I was too busy to garden or notice or even say thank you. But not her. Marigold was kind to everyone, always made time for people, and cared for them. I didn’t know how to really explain how she made me and others feel until I read a note from a guy named Marcel Proust:

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

In order to honor her memory, I do my best to make everyone and everything around me happy.”

The little girl thought for a moment and then asked:

“You don’t walk like most old people I know. Why do you glide the way you do?”

“It was something my grandfather taught me once a long time ago. He was a native American who had learned it from his own grandfather. I’d forgotten what he’d taught me it until a few years ago. He used to tell me, ‘Grandson, we have too much in this world for which to be grateful. It is not enough that we say ‘thank you.’ We must walk as if our feet were kissing the ground.’ I’ve tried to do that more and more since I remembered his lesson.”

That sounded funny but made sense to the little girl. After playing with Forrest a bit, the little girl pointed at the flowering weed with briars on it. “You have such a beautiful garden. Why do you care for the weeds, too?”

“I do pick those weeds from time to time when they get a little too unruly,” he said. “Just the way I prune the rest of the garden. But there is a lot of beauty in weeds just as there is good in the hard things in our world. A very important person told me once that we must be grateful for the difficulties and challenges in our lives for they hold blessings. In fact, we can’t grow without them.”

“Who was that person?” The little girl asked.

The old gardener smiled, looked up, and said, “C’mon, I’ll introduce you.”

And with that, the old gardener stood up and helped the little girl to her feet, Forrest still snuggly in her hands.

As they walked out of the garden towards the house, the old gardener stopped at the post. There was a small book covered from the rain. He took out a pen and wrote something down and then offered it to the little girl.

“Every time I leave here, I write something for which I’m grateful. That means something that has made me happy. Do you want to write something down yourself?”

She looked down and read what he had written: I’m grateful to have finally met my great-granddaughter and for all the teachers and challenges that helped me become the man I am today.

The little girl looked up in surprise. This man was her great-grandfather?

“Honey, I’ve had to work for a long time to become a more kind and grateful person. This garden has helped me get through a lot pain and bad decisions. Thankfully, your mother, my grand-daughter, believed in me enough to move close. And now, I get to be close to you, too.

Now, would you like to write something in the grate-full book?”

Not knowing how to write very well, she simply wrote down ‘me, too’ with a smiley face and her name. Flipping to the front of the book, she noticed her mom’s name in very similar writing as her own.

“C’mon, kiddo,” said her great-grandfather. “Let’s go see your mother. I can’t wait to catch up with both of you.”