Month: September 2017

Drop the Rope

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

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

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!