Tag: summer camp

Heroes Have Open Hands

We all hold onto things. When we think of heroes holding things, we think of Katniss holding her bow, Luke Skywalker his lightsaber, Hermione her wand.

But that is not all these heroes ‘held’ onto. Katniss held onto her personal responsibility, Luke his doubt, and Hermione her books… to a fault. In order to become the heroes they were, each had to open their hands.

We all hold onto ideas and habits and tools all the time in relation to the world us and the world inside us. The idea of ‘open hands’ is important for all heroes… including you! Here are three reasons why.

Letting Go

Before becoming a hero, a person needs to open their hands and let go of that which is holding them back. Be it a self-conceived notion (‘I’m not good enough’), someone who is holding them back (‘You’ve never supported me and my passion’), a past activity (‘All this screen watching isn’t helping me’), or something physical (‘Time to get rid of this junk!’) – heroes first open their hands to let go, to empty themselves of the past habits or beliefs.

When your hands are full in a physical, mental or emotional way, you’ll be hard pressed to fill them up with what a hero needs.

Filling Up

All heroes (at some point) keep their hands open to that which is next – the teaching, the self-knowledge, the journey and adventure ahead. This is not an easy thing to do, by the way. A lot of time, the learning process is painful.

In the hero’s journey, most of these lessons come at the hand of a wise guide. Harry Potter had Professor Dumbledore (and Hermione quite often). Luke had Obi-wan and Yoda. Katniss had Hamish. All of these mentors helped to guide by asking the right (and tough) questions, reframe what was important, and getting the young budding hero to reach past what they previously thought possible.

In all of these cases, the heroes not only filled their minds and hearts with new knowledge, they also picked up tools to use in the pursuit of their mission.

In the stories, our heroes often pick up a weapon of some sort. While that happens in real-life, too, most heroes pick up other implements. William Wilberforce picked up a pen. So did Anne Frank. Einstein picked up a pencil and calculator and a train schedule. Mrs. Parks picked up her resolve and shared her voice.

But that is not all they do with open hands. Heroes, time and again, reach out to others.

Reaching Out

A hero is not all about him or herself. Heroic action is always taken on behalf of others. This is when all heroes (including you!!) are at their most powerful. In fact, Karol Wojtyla suggested that “it is precisely when one becomes a gift for other that one most fully becomes oneself.” (You may recognize Cardinal Wojtyla by a different name.)

In all of our heroes’ quests, they are for a greater good than treasure or accolades for themselves. Frodo wanted to save his friends and return home to the Shire. Marie Curie wanted to discover something that would help millions. Mother Teresa gave (quite literally) the shoes from her feet to the needy, along with everything else.

It is in the moments when we truly serve others that we find our own contentment and our true measure. In order to serve, you’ve got to reach out first. And, if your hands are ‘full’ with other things, others will have a very hard time gaining a good grasp.

Challenging and Rewarding

Make no mistake, being a hero is no easy task. The term ‘hero’ is reserved for someone who truly goes above and beyond the call of being a human being, or even a ‘good’ one. (I mean ‘good’ in the oldest sense of the word.)

You have to get past the self-possession we all battle and literally put yourself on the line for others. That is what Dr. King did. Same with Mother Teresa. And Lincoln. And Mrs. Parks.

What are some things you want to let go? It’s hard to even know. Self-knowledge is actually pretty difficult because it requires us to stop fooling ourselves. But knowing ourselves, per Aristotle, is the beginning of all wisdom. This is where that sage, mentor, counselor comes in. They can see things in you that you cannot see for yourself. They can help you drop the things that are unimportant or harmful and fill your hands with what you need to reach out to those around you.

Young Hero, open your hands. They are going to be very useful – and needed – going forward.

Have a great weekend!

Our neighborhood

Our Neighborhood

On my way home last week, I watched Midway, a movie about a major World War II battle in the Pacific.  Throughout, the director showed both sides – the  US and Japanese –  in an honorable way. In fact, the director and producers dedicated the film to the sailors from both sides at the end of the movie.

The film reminded me of the many wars fought throughout time on this small planet. They were waged for different reasons: power, resources, influence, retribution, etc. The one common factor: one set of humans and their tools against another set of humans and their corresponding tools.

We humans are now locked in another battle. This one, though, is different. Rather than it being against each other, it’s all of us against something that doesn’t care where we are from, what we look like, what car we drive, etc. COVID-19 can affect us all.

Being Neighborly

A teacher once taught a lesson about loving our neighbors. He did so in dramatic fashion, making a member of a despised culture the ‘hero.’

Here’s the short version: A man had been beaten up, robbed and left for dead. Many people who were well thought of in ‘their neighborhood’ walked by, excusing their lack of lending assistance for multiple reasons. Then a member of a despised culture stopped, showed mercy, humility, and love by helping the man and setting him up to be healed with no thought of repayment.

The punchline: the person from a despised ‘neighborhood’ had been the true neighbor. He’d loved the injured as he did himself regardless of anything else – race, creed, color or religion.

Our Neighborhood

How big is your neighborhood? At camp, we’ve got a fun bunch of us. But if we compare our camp with all the camps in the US, it’s a very, very small neighborhood. 

Our Earth is pretty big, right? It’s measured at 24,901 miles around the equator. However, when you compare the Earth to our solar system, it’s pretty small. Compare it to our larger galaxy, it’s smaller still.

For comparison sake, it would take you about 45 hours to circumnavigate the Earth on a plane. To get to Pluto and back, it would take 25 years and a really big rocket ship. To edge of our galaxy and back? That’s currently estimated at 220 million years.  

So, when you compare it to the larger context, our Earth – our neighborhood – is pretty small. Mr. Fred Rogers touched on this a lot over his many decades of service. He didn’t care what you looked like, where you were from, or what was in your bank account. You were his neighbor and he treated you with kindness, patience, respect, and love. Period.

In other words, we are all neighbors. And, until we find life off world, we are the only neighbors we’ve got.

Our Current Battle

In case you haven’t noticed, there is a virus in the neighborhood. We’ve got to work together to stamp it out.

A powerful politician once admonished his ‘troops’ not to let a crisis go to waste. Whether you agreed or not with his politics or timing is irrelevant. This is one such crisis but not in the terms he meant.

This is not an opportunity to place blame. It’s an opportunity to realize that all of us in this tiny little neighborhood are in a fight against something that threatens us all. The good news? There are very simple and powerful ways to defeat it.

First, remain calm and patient. We humans have gotten through much worse. Secondly, wash your hands really well. If you aren’t sure how, here you go. The third is stay away from other people as much as you can for the time being, especially if you feel crummy.

Campers, we are most worried about those with challenged immune systems and the elderly. It would be neighborly of us to do our best to reduce the spread of this disease any way we can. (Here’s a great infographic that explains things well to young and old people alike.)

Weequahic Neighbors

So, while this time is certainly strange for us, it’s also an opportunity to remember that we humans, despite our differences, are all neighbors. Let’s decide to be good ones for each other.

Heck, if enough of us work at this long enough, maybe everyone will start acting the same way. When that happens, our Earth will feel a little bit more like a summer at Weequahic. Talk with you next week.

Something Old, Something New

I recently enjoyed looking over a map displaying the oldest, continuously operating business in each country. As someone with Irish roots, I’m happy to report ‘Sean’s Bar’ has been pulling pints since 900 AD – the third oldest business in the world! I’ve not visited it yet but I plan to the next time I’m on the Emerald Isle.

The map reminded me of a dinner I enjoyed with my younger brother many moons ago. He was spending a year abroad, studying Italian in Sienna, Italy.

I have three distinct memories of my first day with him: the ribollita at a small café outside Il Palio, the after affects of my first (and last) espresso and eating dinner in his apartment… which was older than the United States of America!

Camp – Past and Present

When you put into that context, Camp Weequahic is not old. Founded in 1953 by Mr. and Mrs. Al Lustig, Weequahic grew steadily over the ensuing decades. The camp weathered many financial storms over that time with rising interest rates, an epic flood or two and many other challenges.

Not many communities or businesses have lasted as long as Camp Weequahic. Kate and I are proud to be holding up the torch that was so ably started by the Lustig and Seffer families as we move Weequahic into the future.

There is a lot that is new at our old camp: a new website with a fancy virtual tour, new videos, and more bells and whistles. We’ve got a new waterpark being installed soon. The Health Center has a new exam room and medical storage facility. The oldest boys (finally!) have a new bathroom.

And yet, with all the new, it doesn’t change the majesty and importance of the old. The Tribal and Olympic competitions end the sessions. Campfire is enjoyed every Friday night. Our counselors and staff do all they can to care for our campers… who come to have a blast.

These traditions were started long before Kate and I arrived and will continue (we hope) long after we’ve retired. There is usefulness in good traditions, those that bind us together in positive ways and create a feeling of being a part of something larger than yourself. And, there are some traditions that have outlived their usefulness. (Campfire behind gymnastics, anyone?) As many have said before me, without change, there is no growth. 

So, yes, there is some old and some new at camp, just as there is in your life. We are excited to keep that balance rolling on through at Weequahic.