Archive for August, 2018

Innie or Outie?

Posted Friday, August 31st, 2018 by

During the last few gasps of summer, the boys and I hit the local pool for some fun in the sun. Our pool does not have the same great view of Sly Lake that we enjoy at camp but it’s still pretty nice.

After throwing Luke and Jack around a bit, I took a break by the side of the pool. As two little neighborhood boys skittered by, I couldn’t help but overhearing their conversation:

“Yours is an ‘outie.’ My belly button is an ‘innie.’ Yours is cooler than mine….”

Ha! It’s a conversation I remember having a similar conversation with a buddy forty years ago. With our boys starting school, my thoughts drifted to their groups of friends. It made me think of ‘innies’ and ‘outies’ from a social standpoint. Of course, that got me thinking of camp, specifically about how we train our staff.

Kate comes up with all sorts of games for our staff to play during Orientation. They think it’s all just for fun… at first. And, not surprisingly, most of the games start in the form of a circle.

Circle One

One of my favorites has all of the staff form a couple of really big circles. Each has about 50 staff member standing shoulder to shoulder, facing inward. Two staff members are picked out at random and we tell them to try and get in the circle.

Well, those two normally do everything they can – jumping, trying break through, sliding underneath legs, etc. The circle members, without being told to, normally do their best to keep the ‘intruder’ out.

This is a pretty normal response. If you were ‘in’ the circle, you’d probably get a little competitive and think, ‘They aren’t going to get into the circle by me!’

But is that the point of game? No, the point was for the person ‘outside’ to get inside the circle. What if they just walked up, tapped someone in the circle on the shoulder and asked, “Mind if I come in?”

How many times have you seen someone do everything they can to try to get ‘in your circle?’ The more outlandish things they try, the more annoying they become, right?

But what if they just walked up and said ‘Hi. Mind if I join you?’ You’d probably be more likely to let them, wouldn’t you?

Circle Two

Another circle game has the staff get in groups of five. They exchange names, answer a few goofy questions, and laugh a bit while getting to know one another.

Then, for some random reason, we pick one staff member to leave the group. Whoever is tallest. Which staff member has the longest hair. Whoever traveled the furthest to get to camp, etc.

They are literally cast out and told to find another group. The four remaining in the group are asked to remain silent.

It’s tough seeing those people wander about trying to find a group of four to join. The limit for each group is five people so there is always a lot looking around for a new crew. They are searching for a group, wandering the room, not knowing if and when they’ll find a new group.

We do this once or twice before we introduce a wrinkle: having your name called out. This changes everything.

Rather than the groups of people remaining silent while some person searches for a group to join, the group of four start actively calling the wanderer’s name. ‘Sarah, come join us.’ ‘Drew, over here!’ ‘Scrappy, we need you!’

Totally different experience, isn’t it? That simple change – from silent to calling – makes all the difference. It’s always better being called, invited, than not, right? All it takes is for the group to start looking outward and having the courage to call out.

Your Circle

One of the great things about our summers at Weequahic is the circle we form together. It’s big, it’s inclusive, and it’s really fun. The challenge for you back home is to actively decide what type of circle you’ll have and/or how you’ll try to enter other circles.

Almost every ‘circle’ you’ll see will be facing inward towards each other. And they should – it’s fun to be with your friends. However, it’s equally important to sometimes open up the circle to add more people… as long as they make the circle better.

It’s also important to sometimes completely turn the circle so that you are facing outwards, arms open and out-stretched.

That’s how we want camp to feel when our campers get here – counselors shoulder to shoulder, arms stretched out, reaching and smiling towards the on-coming campers. It makes for a great start.

You can do the same with your friends and possible-friends back home. You’ll have an ‘outie’ circle that way… and it’ll be pretty cool.

Have a great start to the school year!

The Push and Pull of Connection

Posted Friday, August 24th, 2018 by

There are lots ways to think of the word ‘connection.’ You can talk about connecting to someone on the telephone, joining two transistors, connecting to the wireless. You can also talk about connecting with other people.

The first set of connections is mechanical – you plug pieces together or type in a few commands and you are connected. With humans, though, it’s a lot more emotional and it requires being in the present moment, together.

Not too long ago, to connect with someone across the city, state or the world, you had to make an expensive phone call or send a letter that would take well over a week.

Campers, you don’t know that world. Each of you were born into a world with literally instant communication with anyone, anywhere in the world. Rather than having to make individual connections like your parents did – phone call by phone call, letter by letter – you have group chats, Instagram broadcasts, and snapchats.

But, while you can connect with more people more easily, I wonder if you are less connected to your peers as your parents were to theirs? A lot of recent studies find you are not.

It seems that with the rise of connection over social media, we are being pushed further and further away from each other.

The Pull of Camp

Thankfully, for six glorious weeks each summer, we change that dynamic.

The individual social media ‘push’ turns into a camp-wide ‘pull’ of connection.  We connect not only to those around us but the very moments in which we live. We spend more time focused on life ‘where our feet are’, rather than being distracted by anything else.

Two pretty impressive people had something similar to say about this need of connection. Albert Einstein talked about one thing he absolutely knew: we are here (on earth) for the sake of others. Mother Teresa talked about it in a slightly different way.  She said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

At Weequahic, we get to practice this idea of belonging to one another. It’s a such a small community, we remove (almost all) technology, and we get to simply life and laugh and learn together. We make beds, share chores, play on teams, applaud the actors, and frolic together all day. It’s magic, isn’t it?

So the question is this: How can you take some this magic back home when your camp friends feel forever away?

Connection Back Home

Here are a few ideas on how to connect back home like you do at camp:

Idea #1: First of all, take a break from social media, Fort Nite, and other tech. Instead, go and do something with your parents, your siblings (yes, I said it!), or your friends. Play a card game, take a walk, throw a ball, build legos, cook something…. The key is to do something that requires you to interact face to face rather than with your thumbs.

Idea #2: Keep a gratitude journal. You talked about it every night at Weequahic with your counselors. Why not do it at home? Get a small notebook, place it by your bed, and jot down your happies from that day every night before going to bed. Want extra credit? Share those thoughts with your parents. It helps you be more in the moment and realize what’s really important in your day.

Idea #3: Sit with someone new at lunch or reach out to some you’ve not met yet. Yes, I know it’s hard from a social situation but it is no less important. When you get to know people outside ‘your circle’, you stretch. When you stretch, you grow.

I’m sure you can take a few moments and come up with some ideas of your own. The key is to make the effort… and that takes courage and the right attitude. So, for the week ahead, do some pulling with those around you. Have a great week!

The 5 Coolest Things About Night Time At Camp

Posted Monday, August 20th, 2018 by

There’s something magical that happens at camp when the sun goes down at Camp Weequahic. Of course, we have the fun and excitement of our evening activities. Yes, there is so much more that sets the scene for some of the fondest memories of the summer.

Here are the five coolest things about night time at camp:

Stars

When the sun goes down and the moon rises over the camp, the entire vibe changes. What was just a high energy playground of fun and adventure turns into a calm, peaceful retreat in the mountains. And away from the city lights, the stars shine brighter than you could ever imagine! Just picture sitting with your fellow campers, searching for shooting stars and admiring the overwhelming majesty of the nighttime sky. Campers and counselors enjoy sitting their everyday chairs and finding constellations in the sky. Not only is it a great way to relax and unwind after a busy day, but it’s also an opportunity for exploration.

Campfire

The campfire is a traditional part of the Weequahic experience and brings campers together unlike any other part of camp can. The bright reds and orange flames dancing against the black sky create an intimate and exciting environment in which campers can talk, sing, roast marshmallows, be silly and make memories. A campfire is a place where campers can reflect on their day, where they can share their adventures and stories with other campers, and where they can feel connected with nature. Many campers say that campfires are their favorite part of camp, as it was a special way to end the day.

Fireflies

There’s nothing more endearing than watching a camper experience the magic of fireflies for the first time. Fireflies put on a illuminated show for campers as they make their appearance each night. The laughter and excitement that comes from catching one of these little creatures and examining them up close is an experience that many campers have for the first time at camp. These bright little flying bugs turn night time into a light show!

Night Time Sounds

While many of the nighttime aspects of camp can be seen, there is something to be said about the unique sounds of camp at night. From owls calling in the distance to the songs of crickets and the crackling of the fire, certain sounds will stick with campers forever. These sounds, many of which can only be heard once the noise of the day has faded, serve as a soundtrack to the summer nights that campers will never forget.

Bunk Time

As the campground settles down and busy campers head back to their bunks, more memories await. Bunk time allows campers to have quiet conversations with their bunkmates and share stories and details about their lives. This low key, quiet time is a great way for campers to connect with each other without the distractions of the day. This time gives campers a chance to journal or do some self-reflecting, prepare for the next day or simply get some much-needed rest.

A summer at Camp Weequahic is packed with fun, new adventures, new friendships, and excitement all day long. But when the sun goes down, the fun doesn’t stop. Campers love night time at camp because it brings a whole new feeling and vibe to sleepaway camp. Each night, campers fall asleep with images of campfires and fireflies dancing in their heads and wake up from a good night’s rest ready for another day of fun.

Rhythm of Children

Posted Friday, August 17th, 2018 by

A few random thoughts this week has me thinking about the experience our campers enjoy each summer in a slightly different way. Bear with me a bit here – I promise I’ll get to the point!

Youth and Tours

I spent some time reading over my notes from a summer book yesterday at the home office. One of the dog-eared passages was the speech from Gen. Douglas MacArthur I mentioned this summer. A refresher:

“Youth is not a period of time. It is a state of mind, a result of the will, a quality of the imagination, a victory of courage over timidity, of the taste for adventure over the love of comfort.”

Not long after reading this quote, I gathered and studied information about our tours from Summer 2018. Just over 75 children and their families got to experience Weequahic this summer, even if just for a moment. Strikingly, this number has remained incredible consistent over the past five years.

Of those that visited with us this summer, about 35 will enroll for Summer 2019. The majority of those new campers will come from our Camper for a Day kids.  A handful will come from the families who walked camp with Scrappy, Nuge or me for just sixty minutes.

Questions and Answers

A couple of questions come to mind: Why the difference? And, when you compare the number of new campers enrolling after a tour or Camper for a Day experience to the number of siblings enrolling for the first time, siblings beat the new kids handily.

As I pondered the conundrum, something one of mentors told me popped into my head. Camp is one of the few places on earth that runs at the rhythm of children.

When parents tour Weequahic with their children, they look at experience through the eyes rhythm of the adult-world. Their past makes them focus on safety, the movement of the day, the supervision. (Explain how the daily program works again?) They do their best to pick apart what separates Weequahic from the other (very good) camps they’ll see.

Their child sees Weequahic through a different lens: how much adventure does this place offer? Will I fit in? What would it be like to do this or that or….  In essence, the child is seeing camp through the lens Gen. MacArthur introduces: imagination, adventure, courage, ideal.

Because their parents are more intimately involved, these ‘tour campers’ are swayed a bit more from the parent lens (or rhythm) than their own.

The Camper for a Day kids see Weequahic in a very different light. They are separated from their parents and enjoy a lot of what our community has to offer during their five hour stay. When they are met by Mom and Dad at the end, enormous smiles and immediate stories tell their parents all they need to know.

Rhythm of Children

Siblings, though? Their older brother or sister has come back home and explained everything in the rhythm of children. The fun, the laughter, the relationships, the wacky events, the shaving cream battles, breakfast in your pajamas, the EA’s, special events, Color War…. Parents get to see this viewpoint as well.

Being in place that runs at the rhythm of children allows our campers to be completely and utterly who they are. They aren’t comparing to anyone else, thinking about grades, or planning their pre-homework activities. Our campers simply get time to be their best selves in the present moment.

As a parent of three boys, I’m excited about this revelation, especially as we have our oldest just starting high school, a major sign post on the way to the adult world. School, after-school activities, and the schedules we keep are certainly move along the rhythm of adults.

Going Forward

Kate and I have to be creative to find times when the boys can mosey along to their own rhythm rather than try to keep up with us. (Ok, who am I kidding… they’ve got to try to keep up with Kate, just like me!)

By creating this time, we give them moments of reprieve to be themselves and enter the adult world a bit more at their own pace. Doing so, I believe, will allow them the best chance of becoming the adult the world around them needs.

I am truly grateful that our boys get six weeks to move at their own rhythm with friends from around the US and larger world. It’s an island of joy in a sometimes stormy adult world. I know they are all happy to see their friends back home. I also know all three wouldn’t hesitate to head back to camp right now.

For the week ahead, I’ll be thinking about ways to give our boys more moments of a child’s rhythm. If you have an idea on how to make that work in our busy world, I’m all ears. Have a great week!

Remember….

Posted Friday, August 10th, 2018 by

It’s been only five days since our campers headed home after a glorious summer. Many are now on the slow march towards school while some have already started. School is supposed the spot for learning and camp for fun, right? Well….

There are certainly differences between camp and school. The one that is most striking to me rests in the fact that camp reminds us – how to live as a community, stay in the present, be grateful, kind, and courageous. On the other side, school teaches us that which we do not already know – geometry, history, foreign language, biology, etc.

We built a lot of wonderful memories at camp this summer. Amazing Tribals and Olympics, new friends from lots of different places, great daily activities and hilarious evening events. We laughed and played and learned together.

So, if we think of Camp Weequahic as a place that reminds us, then what memories will be important to take into school? I’ve got a few ideas.

There are LOTS of people who accept you for who you are.

You’ve also remembered life is a lot easier, more fun, more interesting when you can live as… well, you! That’s an easy lesson to forget when you are plugged back into school and into your phone. Watch out for the comparison trap. It’s not worth your time or attention. Just be yourself… everyone is taken anyway!

Practicing gratitude, choosing your attitude, building courage, and acting with kindness really does make the world around you better.

Easier at camp, yes, because we are all doing it together every day. But that didn’t just happen. We made a conscious effort to act that way. Those actions influenced everyone else at camp. You can have that effect in your home and school, too!

You can do a lot more than you often think you can.

We call it ‘independence’ in the grown-up world but the message is the same – you can act and think more on your own than you often think you can. You just spent three or six weeks away from your parents where you made a whole bunch of friends, decided on which activities to try, made your bed, chose your food, handled your laundry (and lost and found….) You can do so much – take pride in that!

Being afraid isn’t that scary.

All of our new and many of our returning campers had moments of fear: will I make new friends? Will my old friends still like me? I’m away from home for this long for the first time…. And you still had a blast! You’ve remembered that having those moments of trepidation just prepares you to do something brave – reaching out, trying something new, letting your guard down and just being you.

Camp has certainly reminded us about more than this small list. To me, though, these memories will help us in lots of ways as we head into the school year. So, for the week ahead, whether you are going to be hitting the books or hitting the road for a fun last few moments of summer, take some time to remember so that you can learn all the better.

Have a great week!