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Lesson in the Woods

While Kate traveled with our middle son to a college visit recently, I took over the enjoyable task of walking camp dog Maverick. Not too far from our home sits a relatively new network of paths through a beautiful wood. Being a lovely Saturday morning, we took a field trip to the trails. Little did I know it would lead to a lesson.

The trails had been laid out by a family wanting to leave a positive impact. It wound through the woods, across and alongside streams, under a patchwork canopy of beautiful leaves for just under 3 miles.

But the path itself… there are stumps and rocks and roots. After stumbling a few times while watching Maverick bound around, I realized it was important to pay attention to on the path itself. That’s when I ran into the spider webs….

I’m not talking about little spiders and simple little webs. The newly arrived Jurro spiders are really something and their webs like to stick. (They look a lot more dangerous than they are….)

Against Me? Nope….

The stumps, the rocks, the webs, the spiders… for a moment, it felt like everything on this beautiful trail was out to get me. But, as Mav rollicked by me, I realized all those things had nothing to do with me. If I wanted to make it out of the woods safely, I needed to pay attention to the path and what was around it. But if I wanted to enjoy the experience, I needed to take some time to look around and enjoy the scenery, the leaves and the dog.

So how does one do both? I think it’s by accepting that, as we walk along a beautiful path, there are going to be bumps and bruises, a few spider webs and maybe even a tree branch you run into. Those things aren’t out to get you. They weren’t traps set just for you. They were simply the result of sharing this world with all of the plants and creatures and nature itself.

As many with many things, this reminded me about camp. Camp is BEAUTIFUL. Sly Lake glistens, the trees are tall, the grass green and the bunks comfortable. And, sometimes, you get bumped into in the Dining Hall and your food plops to the floor. You get a great note from home that actually makes you miss home a bit more than it props you up. Or, try as you might, you can’t quite master getting the wakeboard under your feet.   

Your Choice

Do these (very natural) setbacks take away from the beauty and joy of the experience of being at camp? They can… if you let them. However, if you realize these things are ‘not out to get you’ but rather simply the small bumps that you’ll inevitably get when experiencing camp (or school or working or… life!), you’ll be able to take more moments to look around and enjoy it all.

Remember, in a beautiful walk through the woods, you may stumble on a root or have spider web or two clinging to your shoulders. That’s ok. Those just add to the experience of a beautiful journey. We should be grateful for these little bumps and reminders!

No Words….

I’ve been trying to put all of the feelings and concerns and thoughts about this past week in Israel and Gaza into words. For the first time in a long while, I don’t think I can do it in a way that would communicate the heartbreak I’ve felt this week.

So, I’ll say this:

We have a number of friends and families who have been directly affected by all that has gone on during this past week. We stand with y’all and will support you however we can.

For our campers who are frightened and confused by this violence and all the news coming out of Israel and Gaza, I’ll pass along one bit of wisdom introduced to me by Munner, my grandmother. One of her favorite verses from the Old Testament adorns more than a few Temples and schools I’ve visited. It seems appropriate to remember and put into action now.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.

  And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy

  And to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8 (NIV)

Love y’all. If we can help, let us know.

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!