Archive for December, 2018

Let’s Make Last Summer Jealous

Posted Friday, December 21st, 2018 by

It’s near the end of 2018 and I’m in a nostalgic mood.

We had A LOT of fun this past summer. Beautiful days bouncing, swimming, fishing, sailing, and skimming across Sly Lake. Championships contested and (some) won. Incredible creations and shows performed. Rainy day goofiness enjoyed and untold laughter shared. Friendships rekindled, newly made, and stamped for ‘forever.’ Heck, even the food was great!

In other words, 2018 was one of the best summers we’ve yet to enjoy. That said, I know we can make last summer jealous.

How? It’s simple: we do it together.

Here’s the Plan

First, camper back home needs to hug their parents and say ‘thank you’ for the gift of camp. It’s not a right, it’s not something that you are ‘owed.’ Instead, the gift of camp is something to celebrated. You get to go to camp! Show your gratitude by saying ‘thank you.’

Second, start to set your attitude to ‘let’s get it on!’ The key word in that phrase is the first one – let’s – since it implies lots of people in the party. We are not saying ‘I’m going to have a blast.’ Rather, it’s we us….

Third, we need to start practicing being courageous now. Remember, courage is like a muscle. If you train it, courage will grow and grow… without you getting sore one bit! Fail to use your courage and it will get smaller and weaker and more useless.

It’s a big deal to go to camp! Campers, you are away from home, living with a bunch of kids you may or may not know, exploring new activities, trying new food, and… gasp… having to make your bed. Every day!

However, with a grateful heart, increasing courage and an attitude set to ‘arms wide open’, you’ve got the makings of an incredible, jaw-dropping, unforgettable summer.

Summer 2019

New Basketball Courts? Check.

New Weelicious Cooking Studio? Check.

New Waterski boat? Check.

Updated Dining Hall? Check.

New Fashion Design Studio? Check.

Best staff in the business? Well… that’s subjective and lots of camps have great teams. However, are they the staff who best fit our vision of a great summer and can’t wait to create amazing for everyone? You bet!

Campers from all over the US and fourteen countries outside the US who can’t wait to make new friends, build new experiences, and have the time of their lives this summer?

Oh yeah!

Laughing, playing, learning, talking, eating and more together, we have a great chance at making Summer 2018 jealous of Summer ’19. We’ve got all the ingredients necessary. Let’s get in there together and stir the pot.

I don’t know about you but I can’t wait until camp!

Community and Camp

Posted Friday, December 14th, 2018 by

I enjoyed a conversation with a friend recently who had never experienced summer camp. Neither he, his bride, nor his children had ever been a part of our kind of party and was honestly asking what all the fuss was about.

I fumbled around a bit about the joy our campers feel, the crazy evening activities, the benefits of being outside, the ‘no technology’, etc. Then I hit on the theme, the principle, the core of the matter:

Community

The inter-web is ripe with studies and articles on the effect of loneliness in America right now. It’s a sad thing. Even with the rise of technology and general connectivity, there has actually been a fall in true connection – face to face, shoulder to shoulder interaction. Though connection has surged, we’ve not seen the benefits to the community.

Our kids today have little conception of the world before the tech we all now enjoy. (And, let’s face it – we do enjoy it!) Like any generation, they have a hard time looking at the world as a place in which a LOT of things happened before them.

They’ve no appreciation that, not long ago, community was built around the dinner table. Fast food and takeout weren’t around three generations ago. Before that, community was centered around the hearth and homestead… for a couple thousand years. Prior to that happy development, community was focused around the campfire… for tens of thousands of years.

There is something in us humans that reaches out for those much older ‘campfire’ days, days of stories and connection and dependence on each other.

In our modern world, we live longer, eat better, know more than any previous generation. There are so many wonders of the modern world – from the making of a ‘simple’ pencil to a mission to Mars – that it’s hard to fathom.

And yet… a lot of us are lonely. We are at risk of living a life with little meaningful connection. Even with all our wonderful, incredible advances, we yearn for the presence of interested, engaged others.

Community at Camp

In my experience, there is little out there that offers such a connection than summer camp. To quote Kurt Vonnegut:

“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”

That’s exactly what the right camp does for each child (and staff member!)

Not every camp is the right one for each child. That’s up to the child and the parent to decide upon. However, when you find the right fit, there is no better way to forge the connection to a community than summer camp.

You live together. You play together. You laugh, cry, argue, run, eat, rough-house, giggle and guffaw together. Each person is heading in the same direction, for the similar enough reasons, as the rest of the crew. Together.

When the power goes out, you all party like it’s 1718. When the thespians put on an incredible play, you all celebrate with them. When there is a birthday, you all sing and cheer. When taps is played, you all say ‘Goodnight, Camp Weequahic.’ When… well, you get the idea.

That is community. That is summer camp. And, I don’t know about you, but I want more of it.

Thanks for being a part of our community. Talk with you soon.

Hopeless… But Completely Worth It

Posted Friday, December 7th, 2018 by

While traveling to see families this past weekend, I got to speak with one of our very fun staff members. He told me a story from Summer ’18 that made me laugh and think a bit.

The outline is this: one of his campers spent a few rest-hours trying to teach him how to throw a baseball. While certainly athletic enough, our staff member is not from the States and had no idea what he was trying to do.

After about 30 minutes of instruction and failure and many laughs, the camper looked to him and said “You are hopeless… but completely worth it.”

Our staff member took it with a smile and agreement. While we moved on to different discussion points, that story, and that ending phrase in particular, stuck with me.

Let’s break it down a bit:

You Are Hopeless

I’ve been told, by 9-year-olds mind you, that I’m hopeless in the gaga pit. They may be right. Over my ten summers at Weequahic, I’m 0 for 457 in terms of wins. That’s right – I’ve never won a game.

I promise – it’s not for a lack of trying. But, more importantly, being hopeless has never stopped me from having a blast.

Sure, I could work at my quickness and flexibility and strategy to improve. But, let’s face it: this 45-year-old camp director is not going to put in that much effort. So, I’ll accept that title – hopeless – because I choose not to work at getting better.

There are lots of things in my life for which I would classified as ‘hopeless’ – brain surgery, ballet dancing, telling really good jokes, walking past Chef Daniel’s chocolate cookies without eating one, and so much more.

But….

I’m not trying to get better at any of those things. I’m lucky to know some great brain surgeons, I’ve met Baryshnikov (a lot of power packed into that small, creative frame), Kate is more than funny enough for the two of us, and the cookies are just too good!

Given enough time, effort and training, I would become something better than ‘hopeless’ in all of those categories. Well… maybe not walking past the cookies.

A wise man once told me the secret to the word ‘but.’ Whatever comes before it in a sentence is forgotten and replaced with whatever follows it. For example, ‘You are really a nice person but I’m choosing someone else.’ Or, ‘I like what you did there but it’s all wrong.’

You get the idea.

In fact, we’ve gone so far as to train our staff not to use the word ‘but’ in those situations. Instead, we use ‘and.’ By changing that one little word, it allows you to convey both a positive and a constructive criticism or piece of bad news without invalidating the positive.

But… (sorry, couldn’t resist) in this case, the word is a perfect choice. Because we are all…

Completely Worth It

This does not apply just to our erstwhile staff member who still can’t throw a baseball. It applies to all of us. We are ALL worth it. And, by ‘it’, I mean effort, attention, patience, kindness, caring, interest and love.

We talk to our staff members about the what, the how and the why of camp. The ‘what’ is pretty simple: we run a residential summer camp for boys and girls that is three or six weeks long. ‘How’ we do it? By creating an amazing experience for everyone we meet through gratitude, attitude, and courage. The ‘why’ though… that’s the bedrock, the foundation.

For us, it’s because we are all worth it – the effort, attention, patience, kindness, caring, interest and love. It doesn’t matter if you are a first-time camper, a fourth-generation alum, the staff member who washes toilets or the one holding the clipboard.

Sure, you may be hopeless at a lot of things. But, we are all completely worth ‘it.’ And realizing that, at this festive time of year, may be the best present of all.

Happy Holidays, y’all. Talk with you next week.