Tag: summer camp

Building Courage

We talk a lot about building courage at Camp Weequahic. Why? Because we agree with Maya Angelou:

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”

Courage is the handle onto which every other value is fashioned and used. It takes courage to be kind in every situation, to practice gratitude when all seems dark, to be generous when you are so concerned about your own day to day needs.  

So, it’s really important! But how do you build courage?

Building Courage

Courage is a perfect example of the ‘binary opposition’ idea I talked about last week. A scene from a recent pretty popular stories explains it perfectly.

Young Bran Stark is speaking with his father who is ‘King of the North’, a fierce warrior, and loving father. They were having a conversation about being brave.

“Bran thought about it. ‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’

‘That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.”

A Game of Thrones

Every act of courage has at least a kernel of fear in it. In fact, without fear, you can’t have courage.

Think about getting to camp and making some new friends. That takes courage for most of our campers. Why? Because they are afraid they won’t be accepted. (Thankfully, the campers and staff of Camp Weequahic are courageous enough to open themselves up to welcome all in!)

The neat thing about fear and courage is that they don’t affect each person the same way. We’ve seen kids who scale the 50’ climbing tower with ease have a very hard time overcoming their fear of performing on stage in front of others. We’ve had others who jump up on stage without a care who were petrified of trying to make a new friend.

In each of these cases (and all others), the larger the courage grows, the smaller fear becomes. Like missing home or my desire for Chef’s chocolate chip cookies, fear never really goes away. But, with practice, perseverance and support from those who care about you, courage will begin to swamp those fearful feelings and get you moving in a new direction.

Overcoming Fear

We let it. Two great philosophers had something to say about fear. Lao Tzu wrote the Tao Te Ching in China about 2500 years ago. He thought:

“There is no illusion greater than fear.”

Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor and author of the widely read ‘Meditations’ said something similar at about the same time:

“If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgement of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgement now.”

Look, sometimes fear is going to win, no matter how hard you try to overcome it. However, rather than thinking that ‘you lost’, think of it as ‘you’ve learned.’

As a parent, I’ve let my fear of failing my boys ‘win’ from time to time. Thankfully, my bride has been there to help me see the experience as a learning opportunity and determine how I’ll handle the same or similar situation next time.

That’s a great way to keep fear from winning: including those who love and support you. In fact, knowing that you are loved will make you courageous better than anything else. That’s why it’s so great to be at camp, surrounded by people who will love and support you through it all.

The Courage/Fear Connection

When building courage, your fears will get smaller. If your fear is bigger than you want it, start practicing your courage.

First, you’ll need to reach out to a loved to help you understand your fear. Then, come up with strategies to work through the fear. Lastly, review how you did and keep the cycle going. Your fear won’t go away but perhaps you can turn it into a friend, something inside that is simply alerting you to an opportunity to do something courageous.

Get out there, Weequahic Hero. Practice your courage in big and little things. It’ll open up whole new vistas you never even knew were there!

Office and support staff at Camp Weequahic

When Is Fear Fun?

BOO! Did I scare you? No, probably not. Here how about this:

Camp is closed.

How about now? 😉

Halloween is upon us, the annual time for trick-or-treating, spooky decorations, abnormally large penguins (see the picture above) and horror movie revamps.

Here at the Winter Office, we’ve constructed a ‘candy shoot’ that will allow for physically-distanced candy delivery, all masked and gloved up. It’ll be different, sure, but hopefully still fun for the kids.

Enjoying Fear

Why do we ‘enjoy’ fear so much in some moments and not others? Dr. Arash Javanbakht and Dr. Linda Saab do a great job explaining the difference in their article, The Science of Fright.

Basically, it comes down to context. If you are going into a haunted house to get the rush of being scared while knowing it’s all just a game, you like the way your fear makes you feel after the fact. On the other hand, having a mountain lion closely track you because you got too close to its cub will produce fear that you won’t enjoy.

The context is very different between the two situations but so is something else. In the haunted house scenario, you’ve got a sense of control – you can always leave or call out ‘I’m done – let me out.’ The mountain lion won’t listen to you. It’s following its own programming and intent. In other words, you’ve very little control of the situation.

The first can be fun. The second? Not so much.

Real Life Fear

Campers, a lot of your friends and neighbors are feeling fear right now. (And, remember, in the grand scheme of things, we are all neighbors.) We’ve had a hard year, certainly. The uncertainty of the election and the blaring news inputs are overwhelming if you decide to give them your attention.

Just like your attitude, though, you can choose what you listen to, what you read. I cannot control the election. I cannot control COVID. I cannot control every aspect of camp. But…. I can influence things.

Sure, I’ve got more influence over camp than the election. I’ve got more influence how COVID may enter my home than my city. I’ve got more influence on my approach to today than on my boys’ and even less so on yours. So, I focus on what I can control and hope the ripple effect of my actions and attitude influence those around me.

There is one really great thing about fear: it focuses your senses. It demands you live only in the present. It strips everything else away and gets your body ready to see clearly and react quickly. Think about the last time you were really scared: you see more sharply, your breathing rate goes up, and you get a rush of energy.

Your body is ready. It’s the mind that has to be trained.

How Will You Respond?

So, how will you respond to a situation that brings fear into your equation? Will you run from the challenge or face it? Will you cheat on the test or stay honest no matter what? Will join your voice with those making things worse or join those patiently and intentionally being supportive?

We don’t get much of a choice on feeling fear. As the authors indicate, fear is as old as life on Earth. But, as humans, we do get a choice on how to respond. Just as important, as humans, we get to train ourselves by watching others. In fact, fear is contagious. (So is joy and most every other human emotion.)

That’s where courage comes in, in the choice. In feeling the fear and choosing to do what is right anyway.  When you’ve got good role models – like the counselors of Camp Weequahic – you are more likely to choose courage than not. Either way, it’s your choice.

Enjoy a safe, healthy and spooky Halloween, Weequahic!

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!