Your Neighborhood Camp

I remember growing up hearing the trolley sounds, the high-pitched puppet voices, and the piano music. But, what I remember most from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood was his even, friendly, patient voice and the silence he let go on while we thought about what he’d just said or done or shown.

Mr. Rogers was attempting something new in a medium (television) that was used only for two things: entertainment and news. At the time, that entertainment included mostly aggressive or argumentative people acting out situations not entirely appropriate for children. Instead, Mrs. Rogers wanted to create an educational program for children and families.

Over the course of several decades, Mr. Rogers taught, inspired, and comforted us. While I’ve not yet studied the man as I should, what I do know has certainly molded me and the camp Kate and I direct in many ways. Here are a few quotes from Mr. Rogers that have made an impact on me. I hope will be helpful for you, too.

“I don’t think anyone can grow unless he’s loved exactly as he is now, appreciated for what he is rather than what he will be.” And the corresponding follow up: “Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.”

We talk all the time about meeting our campers ‘where they are.’ We have no idea where they are going after camp is over for the summer. There are too many inputs in their future to be clear of what will happen next for each child and how those experiences will mold and shape them.

So, we focus on who  they are right now. And that is more than good enough for us.

“Our society is much more interested in information than wonder, in noise rather than silence…And I feel that we need a lot more wonder and a lot more silence in our lives.”

We spend two minutes at Friday Night Campfire just sitting together and being silent. Yes, I can hear you now: “Two whole minutes, Cole? Seriously?!”

You should try being silent and present for two minutes. It’s wonderful! And, the baby steps approach has been shown to help build habits across the board. Sitting and being silent will actually increase your sensitivity to the wonder in the world both inside and around you.

“Real strength has to do with helping others.”

We talk a lot at camp about becoming part of something larger than yourself. Helping others, putting their needs and wants before your own, listening to their questions and doing your best to answer them or support them in the process of answering their own… this is how we do it.

Ask the counselors about their summer and they won’t hesitate to say that they’ve found their strength in helping others grow. Ask the CITs about some of their favorite memories and you’ll hear about leading an EA or spending time with their JJ’s.

Just as you’ve got to lose yourself to find yourself, by serving others first, you build the strength inside your heart and mind.

“The thing I remember best about successful people I’ve met all through the years is their obvious delight in what they’re doing and it seems to have very little to do with worldly success. They just love what they’re doing, and they love it in front of others.”

Watching the kids on stage shine could not be more fun. You can feel their excitement, see the joy etched on their faces, and share in the triumph by showering them with applause. Same thing with the kids who climb the wall like spiders, score touchdowns and baskets, create something scrumptious, or come up with a new game in the bunk.

We all have something different we love to do. Pushing yourself to improve, because of the love of what you are doing, and sharing that love with your friends is what camp is all about.

You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.”

We believe in giving kids a chance to choose at Weequahic. Whether it be their activity choices, the clothes they are going to wear, or the food they’ll eat, providing a safe environment in which they can make these choices allows for growth and self-knowledge. Through these moments of choice and self-discovery, we get to see our campers (and staff members!) become more informed, independent and confident humans.

I’ve got to share one more.

Who in your life … has helped you love the good that grows within you?

We all have good within. Our camp counselors do a wonderful job, in their best moments, of reminding our campers (and each other) of that good and helping it grow. If only we could provide the same reminders back home for the rest of the year.

Instead, we’ve got to make the memories, the moments, and the experiences so intense, so fun, so memorable that they keep you going all year long. Here’s to more of that.

Mr. Rogers wanted us to be good neighbors. Let’s celebrate that wonderful man’s legacy by making it so. Have a great week!

PS: If you’d like to hear more, check out our Campfire Conversation podcast about Mr. Rogers and summer. You can also head out to see the upcoming movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.