Month: January 2018

Our Jurisdiction

Father Greg Boyle tells a story about walking through a housing project on his way to work and, most days, seeing a man watching the passersby from a window. One day, as Father G rounds the corner, he hears “I LOVE YOU, FATHER G!” Running back to say thank you to his admirer, the man responds, “It’s ok, G. You are in my jurisdiction.’

Our campers and our staff share a very special ‘jurisdiction’ at Weequahic. For six weeks each summer, we get to grow together, create innumerable memories, and laugh… oh, do we laugh!

And sometimes, as we live on earth, sometimes there are problems. And, it’s not always about one specific person. Rather, it’s two groups that are having a hard time.

These two ‘jurisdictions’ grumble, rumble a bit.  A lot of people have something to say about this situation. A little lady from Calcutta said it best.

The Little Nun

If you don’t know about Mother Teresa, you should spend some time getting to know her.

Born in what is now Macedonia, she felt called to do all she could for the least and the lost. Moving to Calcutta and spending literally all of her time with the people considered the poorest in the world, she did incalculable good. Throughout the process, she taught all who would listen.

One of her many nuggets of wisdom is this: If we have no peace, it is because we’ve forgotten that we belong to one another.

I love this idea. We are all on one Earth… and I’m pretty certain we all came from it.

But, yet, we build walls all the time to keep those who aren’t like us out. This happens at school – there have always been the tables somehow reserved for particular groups of kids. We build little jurisdictions in which everyone is accepted… until they do something that gets them kicked out. It happens in adult life, too.

But are we all really that different? Sure, we all look different (thank goodness – how could we tell each other apart!) We all have different aptitudes and interests. But we are made out of the same atoms, built by the same water, and contain DNA strands that are barely, BARELY different from one another.

At our base core, we are all made of the same stuff! So, why do we insist my group is better than that one or that one or that one….

An Illusion

Thich Nhat Hanh said something similar to Mother Teresa: we live an illusion of separateness.

Camp helps us destroy that illusion. We wake up in bunks close enough to see everyone in the room. We share a bathroom, break bread at every meal, together, play, laugh and learn together. At the end of the day, we smile at each other as we fall asleep.  We are completely together, almost all the time. And from this closeness comes magic.

Heck, even Dr. Seuss gets into the act with this short story about Sylvester McMonkey McBean who sells stars to the Sneetches without thars….

It must be a natural instinct to create these smaller groups with ‘ins’ and ‘outs.’

My wanting to eat the entire pan of Chef Daniel’s Sloppy Joe is a natural instinct, too. However, I know it would have disastrous consequences and therefore, don’t. (But, oh wow, it is SO GOOD!)

In other words, some of these ‘natural instincts’ need to be ignored. More often than not, they should be actively fought. But you can’t fight something you don’t know exists.

(That’s the whole point of these little Friday Night Campfire missives – to remind myself of what I need to remember and hope others may remember it, too….)

Bridges or Walls?

When we build up walls around ‘our group’, we run the risk of moving our little bubble, our little jurisdiction, a long way from the other groups. Sooner than you think, you’ll be so far from the others that bridge building between your group and others is really hard.

Do you really want to be on an island with the few who share your same thoughts on… whatever? I’m guessing probably not.

You know what is easier than building bridges? Tearing down walls. If we all belong to one another, the sooner we raze those walls, the better.

It takes courage, by the way. But, when we remember how good it is at camp, we realize tearing down walls are a whole lot better for everyone around you, including yourself.

So, get ready to go out there (wherever you find yourself reading this) and BEEEE AWESOME! Hey, you are in my jurisdiction. Have a great week.

The Wind and the Sun

It’s so cold outside! Kate, the boys and I have just finished spending a bit of time at camp this week and loved every minute. To do something you don’t normally get to do i.e., sledding down Waterfront Hill, is a blast. But, man – it’s cold!

All of the winter gear – the warm boots, hats, gloves, and coats – made me think of one of Aesop’s Tales about the North Wind and the Sun. If you don’t know it, here’s the short version:

The North Wind and the Sun

The North Wind and the Sun decide to have a contest to see who is more powerful.

They spot a traveler walking with a coat on. The game? The first one to get the coat off the traveler wins. 

The North Wind starts off and sets to blowing. It pounds the traveler with everything – cold, gale force winds, and even a bit of rain. Nothing gets the coat off. Rather, the traveler keeps pulling the coat tighter and tighter for protection.  

After the North Wind has had its chance, the Sun steps up to the plate. Gently sending its warm rays down, the Sun begins to warm and dry the traveler.

Finally, the coat comes off as the traveler finds a shade tree to sit under and enjoy the warmth for a bit.  

Today’s Wind

Sometimes I think what the world wants for our young people is too much. There is a lot of … ‘stuff’… they have to deal with that was not a part of my world at their age.

There is more competition in everything. Comparison is through the roof. People lose the ability to remember who they are with the constant striving to be, well, something else.

I see these forces as the North Wind, pounding with all it’s might. We keep pulling our coat – the brave face, the over wrought work ethic, the effort empty of enjoyment – tighter to us for protection.

A Summer of Sun

At Weequahic, we get to be the Sun. Surrounding our campers with mentors whose focus is the camper – not their phone, not their friends, not their future selves – helps to bring our campers back to their true selves.

Yes, there is competition at camp – but only on the fields, courts, cooking or dance studios AND ONLY if the camper wants it. Yes, there is comparison – but only in choosing which canteen item would taste better right then and there.

By making things fun, by showing that welcoming, gentle smile, by listening and playing along… we get to be the Sun. And those gentle rays of summer sun allow our campers (and many of our staff) to shed what they carry to become who they really are.

Sun Year Round

Here’s the thing: you don’t have to wait to get to summer to feel this way. You just have to surround yourself with people who bring the Sun.

Want to know what’s even better? You can make the choice to be the Sun to those around you.

Sure, it’s easy to be that way towards your friends. You already like them and want them to do well, be well. Even when you are having a bad day, you can normally shake it off and be there for a buddy.

What about that difficult sibling, hard classmate, or, gulp… your parents? This is more of a challenge. And, it’s important. Is their happiness, desire for connection, or worth any less than yours?

Of course not. Your difficult little sibling, your teacher and that kid no one ever speaks to at school needs the Sun in their lives as much as you.

So, will you be the North Wind pounding down or warm Sun helping those around you open up? It’s your choice.

Have a great week!

Change Awaits Us

“Change awaits us. What is decisive is our deciding.” – Father G, Tattoos on the Heart

One of my teachers this week talked about epiphanies. We all have them from time to time. They are a moment of clarity when things ‘click.’ I find most of my moments of clarity involve being re-introduced to something I’ve long known but from which my attention had wandered. Father G’s quote represented an epiphany for me.

Thoughts are easy. Living out a new decision, though… that is challenging. Not eating those foods. Getting up off the couch and running. Writing those ‘thank you’ notes each week. Reaching out to a new friend. Going to camp for the first time.

These changes are hard. But, until we are challenged, we cannot change.

Staying where you are – emotionally, physically, mentally – that’s easy. You are already ‘there’ – wherever there is. And, you are as happy as you are going to be ‘there.’

Camp is set up to challenge and, thus, create change. Going away from home, from what and who you know is challenging. Especially if it’s the first time you’ve done so.

That’s why all of our new campers live with and connect with other new campers. They need to know there is someone around them going through the same challenge. We draw strength from shared experience. Its incredible the number of lasting friendships born out of that first summer together.

Second Summer

You know what else is challenging? Coming back to camp for a second summer.

Everything should be the same, right? You loved it last summer. Your counselors were amazing, the friends fantastic, and activities incredible. Sure, you missed home but everyone does there first summer, right?

Here’s the thing: while so much of camp remains the same, things change each summer. We have to! If we don’t change, we can’t get better at our unchanging goal: creating an amazing experience for everyone we meet.

Another thing that changes? YOU DO! Yes, you may feel the same but every year you get older, you can’t help but change. You’ve experienced more. Your eyes have been opened to a larger world. In lots of ways – some big and a lot small – you are a different human being each time you return to CW.

Let’s embrace that change. Let’s celebrate it – together! And, are the challenges worth it? Without a doubt! Whether it’s your first, second, or 22nd (you rock, Camp Mom Judy!), we are excited to have a blast alongside you this summer!