Month: December 2019

End the Year with an !

Every day gives us all ample opportunities to practice both gratitude and fear. It doesn’t matter if you are taking your semester ending exams, helping to clean the house to welcome company, or spending some break-time with friends.

We can be fearful of the upcoming situations or the consequences of their aftermath. The test didn’t go well and our parents will be upset. No matter what we do, the guests will be critical of how the place looks. Try as we might, our friends would rather be somewhere else.

A Grateful Rope

The fear you feel and dwell upon in these situations draws you inward. It becomes a bit of black hole, speeding you down a path of increasing anxiety. Not a good place, is it?

What lifeline is most available to you while drowning in that cramped world of fear? You guessed: gratitude.

You’ve had good teachers and are thankful of the time you had to prepare. If the test didn’t go well, then you are grateful to know you need to change your preparation habits. The place may not be as clean as you’d like but you are more grateful to spend time with your guests. Getting to do anything with your friends out of school is just great!

Gratitude puts an exclamation point on the end of the day. Think about how we practice that at camp: someone always asks you for your ‘highs’ of the day. (If you are a 7th grader or younger, Cole and Kate ask for your two happies.)  This is a great way to practice a bit of reflection by thinking about your day and gratitude by expressing your thankfulness for a few great moments.

A Rich Year

As we near the end of 2019, many of us will spend time reflecting on the prior 12 months. This is a good practice to do daily but, with the turn of the calendar and bit of breathing room, it’s more often an ‘end of year’ practice.

During the process, make sure to spend some time practicing gratitude. That means you’ve got to think about the good things and say ‘thank you’ to those who helped make those good moments reality. These stress of the preceding months can weigh you down a bit as can the bustle of the holidays. If we aren’t careful, we can switch back over to worry and fear leading us to feel overwhelmed and alone.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us:

In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.

Be rich in during the end of this year and in the start of the next. Give thanks to those who have impacted your path in this past year. By practicing gratitude you’ll be more likely to end this year with an !

(Hat tip to one of my teachers, Chuck H., for this idea!)

The Gift of Camp

I’ve spent the last several weeks exploring the ‘camp as a gift’ idea. The deeper I dive, the further it pulls me along. I’ve spoken about it with camp parents, newly alumni-ed campers, and our own team. A recent conversation with Dr. Tina Payne Bryson really slammed it home.

(You’ll be able to enjoy the whole conversation with Dr. Bryson on January 3rd.  It’s one of the most informative and useful campfire conversation I’ve enjoyed!)

I’m starting to see camp as a gift in lots of different ways. The only way I wrap my head around it is in terms of our family’s yearly goal categories. So, in that like, I think camp is a gift for the…

Body

What environment offers the same amount of vigorous all-day, everyday activity as camp? Sure, you could decide to a boot camp multiple times a day but it’s just not as much fun.

And that’s the key, isn’t it – the fun!

I’m not just talking about the kids who play in a WBL game followed by a WFL game and then spend time waterskiing or climbing. The benefits of such a schedule are self-evident. We have a number of kiddos who want to create rather than compete, build things rather than bomb around the courts. Their fingers become more dexterous, their endurance increases, and curiosity goes through the roof.

Plus, we have our free-play each evening that is full of gaga, sport court, chase and more followed up by an almost always active Evening Activity. Heck, just walking around camp will get you more than the steps you need.

And, let’s not forget the food, a key element to every body’s health. Chef Daniel and his crew do an amazing job combing good nutrition with good taste – an important combination at camp!

Mind

A ‘knock’ on camp is that it takes away from the gains of the academic year. I’ve got two counter arguments to such a viewpoint.

We don’t do a lot of book studying at camp, true. And, the learning goes into overdrive.

Whether you are a camper or a staff member, the amount of executive functioning, empathy, communication, leadership, and courage that gets exercised is off the charts. As all of these functions reside in the still-developing frontal lobes, the mind is literally being rewired by the summer camp experience.

Secondly, I think about a quote from an earlier ‘titan’ of the business world, JP Morgan:

“I can do a year’s work in nine months but not in twelve.”

With the demands of school and after school activities, our kids must have some time to get away and immerse themselves into something that captivates their imagination and rebuilds their reserves for the ‘work’ of school. The break allows our kids the chance to get some perspective by creating distance from which to view their world back home.

This is also good for the…

Soul

Personal joy. Lasting friendships. New-found capabilities and interests. Putting down the masks. A chance to be their best self. Flourishing.

These are all things that happen at camp when it’s the right fit for the kiddo. (And for the staff member, too!) How do you know when it’s the right fit? When there are more tears at the end than at the beginning.

This isn’t just for the kids and the staff who live at camp and breath the same air. This gift affects our parents as well. Seeing your child return home more mature, more capable, more confident and overflowing with fun stories of new friends and new adventures… it’s priceless. (And, a little jealousy-inducing!)

Camp is a Gift

Campers, camp is a gift for you. Make sure to thank your parents for making it happen. Often!

Staff members, camp is a gift for you. Few places on earth will help you grow and learn to care for others as much as a summer caring at camp.

Parents, camp is a gift for you. It will partner with you to help raise your child in the ways important to your family.

And, yes, camp is certainly a gift to me, too. Who would have thought Kate’s introduction of ‘summer camp’ would have led to this point? I’m incredibly blessed. Thank y’all for being a part of the gift each and every day!

Have a great week!

Perfect

I hope it’s pretty obvious that I love camp. The laughter and noise of the kids, the enthusiasm and thoughtfulness of the staff, the smell of the pines, the taste of the s’mores…. There is not a place on earth I’d rather be each summer.

At Weequahic, we get to venerate the connection to the old and celebrate the start of the new. We build lasting memories and skills and joy… together. Are there hiccups? Of course! There may be a bug in the cabin. The way our words come out are not exactly what we mean. We may run out of wings at lunch.

Nothing is perfect.

At least that is what I thought until last week.

Kenya

Kate, the boys, and I returned late last week from our first trip to Kenya. Along with friends, we have been supporting an orphanage outside of Nairobi for many years. As this would be (we hope) the last Thanksgiving that our boys don’t have team commitments, it was time to make the trek over.

I didn’t know what to expect at the orphanage. I’ve been to some pretty rough spots – the slums of Tijuana, the inner-city projects of Newark, even Camp Wayne for Boys. (I kid… Tijuana has some nice spots.)

Kenya’s First Love Children’s Home was, first of all, lovely.  All roads inside the compound were clean and true. The rooms were comfortable. Even the squawks and honks of the ducks and chickens was endearing. What I didn’t expect was the love of the children.

Play

First Love is a home for children who have no family who can care for them. As such, I expected to find children reserved, hesitant to reach out, to trust.

This idea was 180 degrees from reality: they craved play, laughed often and without restraint, and wanted to hold a hand or share a hug immediately. After several days living on property, I’m surprised to have convinced Kate to come home.

Were there problems?  You bet. But they were not the problems of privation.

Yes, the kitchen had no running water in the building but the wells were clean and deep. The oven used for cooking 125 people their three daily meals was wood-powered and mighty small but useful. The laundry was hand-washed and hung dry; it was clean. There were no snacks but plenty of beans, rice, porridge, and sustenance.

No, the problems were the same as those we see at camp: one child playing a little too passionately for the others. Someone asking for too many little treats and not sharing. A word taken out of context. Someone slipping and skinning a knee.

Perfect

In the midst of many challenges, in the wake of many hardships, these kids shared something perfect with us: a relationship based on play.

We played four-square and hopscotch. The kids and family danced and made goofy faces with and at each other. We swung and climbed, kicked the ball, and chased the chickens. Everyone made games with the food and make-believe stories with our minds, hands, faces, and words. We laughed and we raced. We read aloud and laughed together.

For four short days, the kids welcomed us into their home, just as welcome our campers in our own. A lot of bad luck led the children of First Love to their gates. Thankfully, many wonderful professionals were there, prepared to greet the children and meet them in all the right ways.

Our campers are much luckier in terms of family connections and material wealth. And, we at Weequahic hope to provide them with the same  experience the children of First Love receive: loving, playful, and completely open.

If we can do that, it will be perfect.  Have a great week!