Category: Campfire Conversation

Fun summer camp experiences

Lessons of a Future Skinned Knee

I’ve written about Dr. Mogel’s Blessing of a Skinned Knee before… and most likely will again. The work she put out into the world is useful and applicable, regardless of what is going on in the culture around us. But that’s not exactly what I’m thinking about today.

I’m thinking about homesickness and how thinking about a future ‘skinned knee’ can help.

Missing Home is Real

Let’s the obvious thing out of the way – the vast majority of kids will miss home at some point while at overnight camp. It doesn’t matter if you are at Weequahic or some other great camp in Wayne County or North Carolina or California.

How campers experience these very normal missing home feelings will differ. Some will hold it in and ‘soldier on.’ Others will let all the feeling hang out for everyone to see. It may happen when you in the Health Center, getting ready for bed or even walking back from the waterpark.

One thing that is consistent across campers: looking back on them, these feeling always seem much bigger than they actually were.

This is a normal reaction. If our brains hadn’t developed this habit, we humans wouldn’t have made it past the sabertooth tigers in our past. Being overly aware of negative, potentially dangerous things is important!

The problem is that now the vast majority of risks that could have done us harm thousands of years ago aren’t around… but that warning system in our head is still really, really good at blowing bad feelings out of proportion.

That’s why the future skinned knee idea is so important.

The Lesson of a Future Skinned Knee

I had a great conversation with a younger camper the other day. He was concerned about coming back because he had missed home ‘a couple of times’ last summer.

I get it. Those feelings are big! And… there is always more to the story. When I asked him, he had missed home when he was feeling sick one afternoon and one other time. But, he loved camp… kept saying that over and over.

I believed him – I saw a guy last summer having a blast! He wanted to come back but didn’t want to feel sad again.

When I asked, he agreed that he felt sad for maybe 5.5 hours over the course of the three weeks, most of it coming when he felt sick.

“Jorge (not his real name), you love baseball, right?” I asked. “Sure do.” “Ok, think about playing a game tomorrow. If you knew right now, without a doubt, you’ll skin your knee during the game tomorrow, would you still play? It would hurt, it would be real… and you’d get to play the game you love.”

“Sure, I’d still play,” he said to me almost incredulously.

“Well, Jorge… it’s the same thing with camp. You know you are going to miss home. It’s going to be real and not feel great… for a little while. But you still get all the other good things, too.”

Balancing the Future and the Past

We all have bad experiences in the past. Someone was mean to us, we scrapped a knee. Those are real hurts and can affect our future… if we let them. The challenge is to imagine those possible or certain future hurts and weigh them thoughtfully about the good we’ll get even when dealing with the bad or difficult.

I know enough now that, though I don’t want to exercise all the time, I feel better after having done so. I also know that, even though my son’s piano recital or football game may not go perfectly, I’ll have so much fun watching them play.

Campers, when you think that missing home will hold you back from going to camp, I completely understand. It’s a real, honest feeling. Just do me a favor: think about all the fun you’ll be missing and then make a decision.


Just an idea from a future skinned knee. Have a great weekend!

Getting vs. Giving

A long time ago, a good friend gave me a book and asked me to read. As a college junior at the time, I thought I was pretty smart, able to figure things most things out. However, Khalil Gibran’s, The Prophet, was just outside my reach.

I loved it – it made me feel smart and poetic at the same time. But I didn’t really get it. When I re-read it recently, I found it still barely outside my grasp. Perhaps that is what a good book should be.

Getting vs. Giving

During my re-read of the book, a local teacher spoke about the difference between ‘getting’ and ‘giving.’ In this day and age, most of us are focused on the former. We get entertainment from our phone, the best food around from one of the delivery apps almost whenever we want, news from tiktok.

And, it’s fun! I could be entertained for hours by all of those things. In fact, a older friend used to say he could be entertained for hours just looking through his fridge. He looked like it, too!

But, when it comes to feeling fulfilled, getting is rarely the way to go. I don’t know about you but whenever I feel like I’ve gotten enough Chinese food or cookies or internet news… I don’t feel fulfilled. Actually, I normally feel pretty crummy and certainly not ‘fulfilled.’

Life Unto Life

So, how do we get that fulfillment we seek so often? The Prophet gives us an idea:

“You often say; I would give, but only to the deserving. The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.

Surely, he who is worthy to receive his days and nights is worthy of all else from you.

And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream.

See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and an instrument of giving. For in truth it is life that gives unto life – while you, who deem yourself a giver, is but a witness.”

It’s a much prettier way than simply saying you get more from giving. But that’s the essence, isn’t it?

Yes, it’s wonderful getting a gift. It’s also wonderful giving one, especially one that really is thoughtful and is received with delight and surprise. Giving your time, your attention to someone results in the same (if not better) feelings. By pouring your life into someone else’s, even if just for a little while, can be the spark they need to keep going.

A Munner Lesson

When I came back home for graduate school, my mother’s mother was still alive and living by herself in the (very) small town in which I had been born. My mother, who was living out of town at the time, asked me to go take Munner to lunch at the Brazier.

I’ll be honest: I felt strange doing it and a little nervous. What would we talk about? I’d not been around Munner just by myself in a long time. I was in graduate school and had a lot going on.

And, we had such a good time. She was so happy to be out and about. I heard stories I’d never heard before and laughed a lot more than I had expected to. We rode by a few of her older friends’ homes and stopped to say ‘hello.’ We ran by the grocery and visited a few more places important to her.

When I left, she gave me a big hug and told me to come back soon. On the one-hour drive home, I didn’t play the radio or listen to a book. I simply watched the fields and trees and skies and felt like I floated home.

A few days later, I received a note in Munner’s thin handwriting that basically said ‘you made my day.’ My first thought was, no, it’s the other way around. I felt so full, so content for days after those few hours together.

Looking back on it, my time with Munner was what Gibran was talking about: “life that gives unto life.”

Meaning & Purpose

And, when it’s done well, that’s what camp does, too. It’s all about the campers and the staff and the relationships and connections that they build over a few short weeks in the hills of Pennsylvania. They give each other time and laughter and attention and friendship.

We all ‘get’ as well – it’s a cycle, of course. But the focus is on the giving.

And, by doing so, you get two things that lead to more fulfillment and long term happiness than anything else: You get meaning and purpose.

Want to know a secret? This is not something that only happens at camp. Yes, it’s easier there because, well… that’s the whole point of the party. But you can take what you’ve practiced at Weequahic and put it out into the little world around you back home.

Weird? Maybe. Worth it? Completely.

Have a great weekend!

Despite

Our oldest had a bit of a setback recently. He’d be enjoying his first year of college and doing all the things: classes, new friends, etc. During his second intramural’s flag football game, an old injury decided to rear its head again. The result: another torn ACL.

Five weeks into this new and, up to this point, meaningful (and fun) experience of college, all had gone about as well as could be expected. Now, rather than running around, he’ll be crutching around. Rather than playing 3on3 basketball, he’ll be coaching. Instead of running to class, he’ll be hailing the golf cart assistance team.

This is not what he wanted. And, it happened. Thankfully, he’s already been through it once and knows the routine. While the family was trying to help, I read something that focused on one word:

Despite

The definition of the word is ‘without being affected.’ In Cole3’s situation, he’d use it as ‘I’m going make a bunch of new connections despite not being able to play sports.’ Or, ‘I’m going to make it to class on time despite having to use my crutches or the golf cart crew.’

In each of these situations, he’s got a goal. In each, he’s also got a challenge: he almost always makes friends through sports in the first situation and can’t move very well in the second. He’s decided, though that despite the challenge, he’s going to overcome.

Will he do it? I hope so. But that will be up to him. (He’s off to a great start, though!)

What’s Your ‘Despite?’

When we started at Weequahic, we didn’t have many campers. We wanted to make sure those who were with us had a blast despite not having leagues or many campers in their age groups.

A lot of our new campers arrive without knowing anyone. They decided to have a great time despite being nervous about this new experience. (And they crush it!)

We all have situations that are challenging in all of our phases of live. Those give us the opportunity to use ‘despite’ in really productive ways. So, what’s your ‘despite’ going to be?

Have a great weekend!

PS…

It can go the other way. He failed his class despite having a lot of teacher support. She continued foul the other player despite the coaches and refs talking with her about it. Cole keeps eating cookies despite knowing the fourth and fifth ones are not good for him.

Maybe you have a habit that negatively affects you. You can turn it around – I know you can! Despite only being around our campers and staff for a few weeks a year, I know our Weequahic can do anything they put their minds to!