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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!

What Makes You Happy?

Well… it’s not the internet. How do I know? The Dr. Jean Twenge recently put out an article and  great series of graphs on the World Happiness Report. Dr. Twenge and her team looked specifically at 12 to 18 year olds. (I would guess the following holds true for our younger… and older… friends, too!)

Time on the internet has increased dramatically from 2009 to today. During that same time period, the average amount of sleep and ‘in-person’ interactions have plummeted.

And, guess what the results for happiness did? Just like the rockets that don’t pop their ‘chutes at camp: straight down.

But, if you spend any time at camp, this isn’t a surprise. There are no phones and very, very little internet. There is an abundance of in-person interaction. In fact, you can hardly get away from it. And, (believe it or not parents), there is a lot of sleep – at least 8 hours for even our oldest campers.

Here’s the kicker graph to me:

Now, this graph is ‘correlational’ rather than ‘causal.’ That means it’s not proven that spending time texting or on social media or internet causes you to feel unhappy. It could be that when you are unhappy, you reach out to those options.

Either way, we know the things on the top of the graph – with the scores moving to the right – are either making you happy or are things you do when you are happy.

Want to know something crazy? It really doesn’t matter if it’s a before or after scenario. The more you do things that are correlated to your happiness, the happier you’ll be.

At camp, you can pretty much do everything that is purple in the graph above… except the news things. Yes, you can even do homework… if your parents request it. The things in yellow? Almost impossible to do at Weequahic.

Here’s the thing: you know you are happy at camp. So, make your life in other areas as happy as you can by making it more like camp.

How? Start by getting off your phone and around others. Go play. Volunteer your time. Reach a book. Write a list of you are grateful for rather than spending time scrolling. There are lots of ways. You just have to get creative and decide to go and do.

Get out there, Weequahic. Move! Interact! Sleep! And be happy.

Summer Learning

While many of our campers have already been enjoying school for a few weeks, most will be starting on Tuesday of next week. I know everyone would be excited to just get back to camp instead of picking up the math books. Campers, remember, you will learn important things at school, too.

As we prep for the buses to roll and get dolled up for those ‘first morning’ pics, I’d like to remind you of a few things you learned this past summer that will help you through the first few days (and longer) of school.

Turn It Up

When we turn up joy, we turn down fear. When we turn up generosity, we turn down envy. When we turn up humility, we turn down false pride.

Humility is a great word and even better way to live your life.  The word humility comes from the Latin word ‘humus’ which means ‘fertile ground.’ That’s ground on which lots of things can easily grow. Humility doesn’t mean thinking less about yourself but rather thinking of yourself less and others more. It’s about serving and celebrating others rather than serving or celebrating yourself.

So, when we turn the humility knob up to maximum blast, what happens to the false pride knob? Right – it gets turned down. Here’s a question: how do we turn humility up? What’s the key that will unlock the dial so you can turn it up?

The key is gratitude.

Realizing that you’ve benefited from others actions – be it your friend, your parents, your camp counselors, Yaweh, Buddha, Jesus or Mother Nature – is the first really big step. Saying ‘thank you’, especially if it is heartfelt and honest, is wonderful. Do that in school and I guarantee you’ll turn heads for all the right reasons.  

Cups or Fires

Will you treat your brain as a cup to be filled or as a slow moving fire search for new ideas? If you feed the fire, the light, the warmth inside you with new information and old wisdom through connection and questions and curiosity, you’ll go far. The stuff on your phone, tiktok or insta or snap… most of that stuff is just entertainment. It doesn’t feed your fire. In fact, I’d guess the long-term effect is actual a dampener on your fire than a fuel.

In fact, there will be a lot of fuels that don’t work. Others will give you a quick burst but go out just as quickly. But, if by experimenting and searching, you find the right fuel for the long, slow burn. Tend that fire well and it will burn brightly for a long, long while.

In my experience, the best fuel is an attitude of curiosity and of humility.

It may seem easier or cooler to live as though you know everything already. That’s your choice. And you get to live with the consequences of that choice. You can choose to be ungrateful, spiteful, uncaring. You can choose to use terrible language and decide not to listen to people who truly care and want the best for you.

Or, you can choose to be grateful, thoughtful, patient, curious, kind, honest, helpful and friendly.

Remember, your choices make you who you are. But you want the best news? If you find yourself making bad choices… you can change.

Courage to Connect

It takes courage to go past your comfort zone and connect. It’s lot easier to be furious rather than curious. There is something very old inside us that wires us for big emotional reactions and for keeping to our own. These impulses probably kept the human race limping forward.

Now, that mentality holds us back. Campers, you are lucky enough to live in time when things would be considered miraculous to any human living before you from 1960 until the dawn of time. As a parent once wrote, imagine dental work without pain killers…. Yeesh!

It takes courage to put yourself out there. It takes courage to reach out. And, the reward for doing so completely and totally outweighs the opposite. Yes, you might feel awkward. But, as you learned at camp this summer, it’s important.

Reach out. Be yourself. You are more than enough.

Swim and Howl

Be aware of the little things around you. Be kind to the bus driver, the custodian, the Lunch Lady. They are a seemingly small part of your day but their work makes your life easier and, in most cases, a lot better. The ‘water through which we swim’ at school is full of a lot of fish – some big, some small. They all deserve to be treated kindly.

And, while we have fish swimming all around us, remember you’ve got two wolves inside you. One is Good and the other is Not. The one that wins is the one you feed. Choose wisely.

Camper – have a great year at school. You learned a lot this past summer. Now, go put it into practice and make the little world around you a better one every day.