Month: April 2019

Your Private Garden

It’s spring time here at the ‘Winter’ office and everything is in bloom. The flowers are lovely, the trees full, the grass is greening up. It’s a beautiful time of year in Athens, GA.

Outside my office window, I have a little herb garden the boys and I planted years ago. It’s nothing special and certainly not as fun as Camp Mom Judy’s garden at Weequahic. At home, we’ve got a nice stand of rosemary, some thyme and a little oregano the boys brought home from their science class so many years ago.

We’ve used these herbs often in our cooking over the past few years. The best thing I can say about the garden: it produces.

In the middle of the garden, though, there is a bald spot. Ants built a hive there last summer and vacated it over the winter. A short garden hose laid unused long enough for a lot of the thyme to grow around it. A board rotted away and much of the rosemary’s roots showed through due to the soil loss.

So, while our little garden still produces some nice results, it’s operating well below its true capacity. Does that sound like you? I know it does me.

I spend a lot of time running around not questioning old habits. Eating certain foods, spending time online, connecting with people, taking in media… mostly out of habit. In this manner, my life grows a bit wild. Some ‘weeds’ pop up. Some aspects of my life thrive while other aspects suffer. The soil (or soul) is neglected.

As for our little garden, it was time to put in some effort. I hacked away the dead parts of the rosemary that was just taking up room. The garden hose had to be cut up and removed from the thyme. New soil was churned in along with some fertilizer. Finally, some rocks for support and a side beam were added.

It didn’t take long – just one hour of work and a trip to the local hardware store. But, we’ll have better herbs for a longer period of time. Even better, I was able to clear enough room to add a few new basil plants.

When we let our lives spin thoughtless on, as I let our little garden grow, we get whatever life throws at us. There will be some good things, there will be some bad, and a lot of stuff will just get sucked up without you recognizing it because, well, that’s how you’ve always done it. Things are just… fine.

But, you don’t want ‘fine.’ You want great! You want AWESOME. And that result, young camper, requires some effort on your part. You’ve got to take some time to prune the garden of your life, invest in new soil, cut some of the dead things away and plant new ideas.

Only then will your garden truly grow.

Have a great week!

Change the World

I get to fly around the country often during the ‘off-season.’ (It’s a funny juxtaposition to my life at camp when I never leave!) When I fly, I always ask for a window seat so I can look at the landscape as we pass high above. One thing that always hits me: the Earth is huge!

When you travel and see things like New York’s Empire State Building, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Grand Canyon, you realize that we people are pretty small. When see a relatively small slice of land from 30,000 feet up, you feel even smaller.

With that in mind, it’s hard to grasp the idea of changing the world. It’s not even comical. If taken as a challenge, this idea is downright impossible.

And yet….

Ripples on Sly Lake

Human culture is too big to change by yourself. Have there been a few people to have done it? Yes. But the massive changes that came from Buddha, Abraham, and Jesus took centuries.

There have been others more recently like Marie Curie, Einstein, Mother Theresa, and Bill Gates who have done so more quickly. (And, yes, there have been some bad guys who have done the same but I’m not going to speak of them.) Their genius combined with the modern technological age allowed their ripples to effect us all.

But making a big change on your ‘world’ doesn’t have to include the whole world. We spend our time running around in our little worlds. Yes, these are connected to others but our homes, our schools, our camps… these are the little worlds in which we truly live out our days.

Do you think have you the ability to change those worlds? Of course you do. And, whether you realize it or not, you influence those ‘worlds’ every single day.

When we sit at the campfire and watch the swallows dip down and fish rise up, we see their ripples expanding ever outward. You create the same ripples with every kind word, every smile, and every helping hand. You also create ripples for the opposite actions and from inaction.

What kind of ripples are you going leave behind today? What effect are you going to have on the world around you? You get to choose. And that choice matters.

Have a wonderful weekend. See you soon!

Gratitude In Action

Around the campfire during the summers, I get to speak with our campers and staff about big ideas. The idea is to enliven their imagination and get them thinking about foundational values. Stories are shared as are quotes from thoughtful people.

Preparing to speak about gratitude for the first time around the campfire, I came across JFK’s quote:

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

Ten years later, JFK’s quote came up again. In a wonderful conversation with two of my favorite people, Co-Director Kate and Asst. Director Dana, we kept circling back to acting out our grateful feelings and intent. I’ve always thought of it as an ‘attitude of gratitude’ but that’s only a small part of the equation, isn’t it?

Action is more important than words or feelings. Yes, I want to have a more grateful outlook on life but my actions will show me and everyone else what I truly believe. Jerry Sternin said something about this:

It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking, than think your way into a new way of acting.


One gratitude ‘hack’ that we’ve enjoyed for two decades is the sharing of 3 Happies and an Appreciate.

The idea is simple and powerful. Throughout the day, collect the three things you were most happy about, i.e., ‘my child got the therapy he needed’ or ‘it rained on my flower garden today.’ Right before you go to bed, share those three happies with your child and your spouse.

Kate and I started doing this while courting and have practiced it every night for 18 years. When the boys showed up, we extended the habit to them as well. When your voice-changing, smelly, phone-addicted fourteen year old comes back down the stairs saying ‘you didn’t get my happies!’, you know it’s working.

The ‘appreciate’ was a new addition 10 years ago and it’s made a big difference in our lives. At the end of saying your happies, you look at the other person and tell them one thing you appreciated about them that day. Simple, yes, but hearing that you are appreciated is a powerful and wonderful thing.


I’m grateful you’ve read through all this and hope it will be useful to you. I know your time is valuable and I appreciate you sharing some with me. And, if you’d like to listen to how we think about gratitude, take a listen to Kate and Dana’s recent podcast: Grateful Kids, Happy Adults.

Have a great weekend!