What are you most grateful for in your life? When you think of it, what does it feel like? I’ve got several things that come to mind and, as you may imagine, one of them is Camp Weequahic.
Kate and I are so lucky to get to do something professionally that we enjoy so much. And, even better, we get to do Weequahic with friends who are as close as family – Chopper, Dana and Scrappy, Jerry, Cammie, Nuge, Food Fairy Leigh, the Overfields, Chef Daniel….
And, even better, we all get to work with amazing young women and men from around the world to create a remarkable experience for everyone we meet through gratitude, attitude and courage.
Even more, we have all of these incredible young people who are the biggest part of our community. Coming from 15 countries and 14 states around the US, they bring their laughter, curiosity, joy, and huge open hearts to Weequahic each summer. We’ve watched many of them literally grow up in front of our eyes; many of the ‘kids’ who leave one summer return as young women and men ten months later.
Even more, we enjoy the trust and support of so, so many families. Without the support, belief, and trust of our camp families, many who have become friends as well, none of this would be possible.
We are lucky at Weequahic to have so many who love the experience of building a community together each and every summer. This Thanksgiving weekend, I’m thankful for each and every one of you!
Where ever and whenever this finds you, Happy Thanksgiving. Cole
Camp Weequahic is focused on developing the whole child in a way that is healthy and fun. And although all of the running, jumping, swimming, climbing, dancing, and playing is great for their physical health, working on their emotional well-being, their character, and their self-confidence is just as necessary. This is why we put so much emphasis on having a growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset.
By definition, people with a growth mindset “believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. On the other hand, people with a fixed mindset “believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.”
Campers come to camp with the labels and expectations that the world has put on them, and many have come to believe that these traits, both good and bad, are just an integral part of who they are. Some have been told they are smart their entire lives, and their fixed mindset makes them believe that their intelligence is something that comes naturally to them and doesn’t require effort to improve upon. The same goes for athletic performance, relational ability, and their character. Campers who have been told they have anger issues will begin to believe that they are incapable of handling their anger; it is a fixed part of them that can’t be changed or improved upon.
At Camp Weequahic, we focus on fostering a growth mindset in each camper. When they succeed, we praise their efforts by saying things like “you worked so hard at that” instead of “you are awesome!” Although the latter can be helpful to hear, hearing specific praise acknowledging the effort that the camper put into a specific task is more rewarding and builds their self-esteem. Camp staff and counselors work hard to praise the process instead of just the person. Campers will hear us say things like:
Tell me more about what you did
How did you figure that out?
Are you pleased with how it came out?
You must be so proud of yourself
We try to avoid labeling campers or putting too much emphasis on the labels they put on themselves. We want to encourage them to see themselves as capable and worthy of improvement in all areas of their lives. We want them to strive to be the best versions of themselves instead of being complacent with the label they’ve grown so comfortable with.
As campers step out of their comfort zones and try new things, they realize that they are capable of so much more than they thought and that their qualities, strengths, and abilities are not fixed. We want campers to be intrinsically motivated; to try new thing and preserve through hard things to feel good about themselves, not because they are seeking the approval of anyone else.
A summer at camp is about growing, maturing, and improving in all areas of life. Our goal is that campers leave with new friends, new experiences, and a stronger sense of who they are and what a valuable asset they are to the world. And it all starts with how they think about themselves.
I’ll admit it… I really enjoy watching Iron Chef America. For a person who likes to cook, what the men and women are able to create in such a short period of time is stunning. One night recently, I caught the tail end of the Thanksgiving Leftovers battle. Alton Brown, the host, quoted Cicero at the end.
Cicero? The Roman writer, philosopher and statesman who lived over two thousand years? Yep, that guy. At the end of a food show. But, it was a completely apt use. Here’s the quote:
A thankful heart is not on the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues.
I really like that quote. And, as you would expect, it (along with the sweet potato soufflé and turkey tortellini) got me thinking about our upcoming Thanksgiving holiday here in the States.
When I’m in the homes of prospective families, our major values of gratitude, attitude and courage come up at least a few times. And, when I ask the prospective camper what gratitude means, I get a quick ‘yes, I know what it means.’ When pushed to define it, however, I normally get a smile and a shrug.
To me, gratitude means be thankful for what you have in your life and reflecting on them. And, there are a whole host of reasons why practicing gratitude on a daily basis is good for you: you become happier, more patient, more thoughtful with others, and calmer.
So, if I told you that one five-minute daily practice would lead to those results in your life, would you do it? We are talking about .5% of your normal waking hours. So, what is this magical practice?
Simple – take 5 minutes each day, think of what you are grateful in your life, and write it down.
That’s it! Well… kinda.
In Walks Courage
While I do love the Cicero quote, I don’t think I completely agree with it. I do absolutely agree that a thankful heart can help you practice all other virtues fully. But, I think we have to add courage into the mix? Why? Let me quote two other great thinkers for my back up.
Aristotle said that “courage is the mother of all virtues because it makes all others possible.” And CS Lewis said “courage is not just one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”
So, does it take courage to take 5 minutes and write down what you are thankful for in your life? Actually, I think it does.
If you don’t already practice the habit, then it’s a change. And any change, if you are going to make it permanent, takes the courage to start the perseverance to stick with it.
A GAC Thanksgiving Sandwich
So, if you want to be happier, more patient, calmer, and better with those around you, it’s time to make a new kind of Thanksgiving sandwich: one slice of gratitude and one slice of courage. The middle? That’s for the great attitude that you’ll continue to practice.
Regardless of where this note finds you, I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving and re-double your efforts to practicing gratitude daily.