It’s late in the afternoon and we are tired and full and hot. It’s been a fun day – climbing, waterskiing, soccer. In Grill Masters, we made these crazy kebabs with chicken, onions and pineapple.
Lunch was actually really good – wing day! – and the dancing was hilarious.
But, we were up late last night goofing off, telling stories, laughing, and pretending to be asleep, whispering to each other until who knows when. That last round of gaga was great… and tiring.
Time for ‘shower hour’ and everyone is back in the bunk. I catch a look from someone I’ve not seen since lunch. And then another. What a second – was that a dirty look? Did they really just sneer at me?
What the heck? Hm… we didn’t talk at lunch. They were sitting on the other end of the table and wouldn’t pass the ketchup.
What the heck is this all about? Snotty kids…. I can’t believe they’d look at me that way. I going to….
Stimulus and Response
As I hope you can tell, the above is a fictional account of what could very easily go on in a bunk at camp. Not often, mind you, but it does happen. And… I wanted to get your attention. This is a classic camp example of stimulus and response.
Here are the basics: a change in the environment is the stimulus; the reaction of the organism to that change is the response.
In other words, someone tells a joke you think funny, you respond by laughing. You hear a loud crash in the middle of the night, you respond by waking up and looking around. Someone gives you a look you consider mean, you start to react.
It’s pretty solid science, this stimulus and response reaction. But here’s the caveat – you can determine how you respond.
One of my favorite thinkers of the 20th century is Viktor Frankel. An Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, he was a survivor of the Holocaust camps. One of his thoughts that has always stuck with me is this:
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
At Camp Weequahic, our campers get to choose their activities. Whether they want to focus on swimming, creating, competing, or adventuring, we’ve got it covered. Everything from robotics and cooking to sports leagues and waterskiing. Your summer, Your choice; it’s a tagline for a reason.
But that’s not all our campers (and staff) get to choose. Their most important choice, made daily and often without much thought, is their reaction.
It’s our goal that campers (and staff) learn to use the space between stimulus and response to become more mindful and intentional of their reaction. It’s an important habit to develop and camp is full of opportunities to practice in a safe, thoughtful environment.
The more we can help our campers (and, yes, our staff) practice using the space between what happens and how they react, the more freedom and growth they’ll enjoy in their lives.
It’s important to remember that the collection of these responses over time determines a person’s attitude. And, that attitude will determine a vast part of their future life.
Here’s to the space between….