Camp is not whole without its people. As we move through this next season, we are thinking of you all. How we missed you this summer as we look ahead to the return of laughter and cheers, happy feet running across campus, and the joy that you all bring each year. Each and every one of your children belong here. Living through this time of pandemic, social and economic upheaval, the demand for patience and tolerance for uncertainty continues. Our collective focus on work and home and school and sports requires energy and perseverance. We hope you are finding moments of gratitude, peace, and even delight amidst these days. Let this be your monthly reminder that an extra dose of compassion for oneself and those around you is the heartbeat of living the Other Fellow First. We hope the thoughts below bring a spark of affirmation for your efforts of self-nurturance.
A whole new normal. We heard this phrase early on as pandemic reality started to set in— still a bit abstract back in March. Now, as we live through pre-vaccine days from our relative and variable circumstances, one special element of this “new normal” seems especially worth noting as it presents a unique challenge to us all. The necessity of social distancing to curb the spread of this virus can strain the best of relationships and friendships. Choosing when, how or with whom to be physically close to presents us with myriad questions and possibilities. Even for the most introverted amongst us, we are not meant for such sustained distance and isolation from each other. Below the surface of simple human contact lies the concept that Camp works to foster in all of you. It is the powerful experience of belonging.
“Belonging” is defined as feeling connection to others or being in dedication to something bigger than ourselves. This could be in a social group, a community, in service to a cause, or even a spiritual path. Indeed, belonging is often lauded as that which breathes value into life. It won’t come as a surprise to most of us that those beliefs and communities that we feel we belong to reflect meaning and purpose into who we want to be.
This is where Camp-inspired living has much to offer. It serves as a hopeful reminder to place ourselves amidst causes, groups, and situations that inspire and challenge us to be our optimum selves. When we are in a group that is guided by explicit principles, we bolster each other. We develop norms that make it easier to take actions aligned with our values. It becomes easier to reach for who we aspire to be and indeed can become.
How many of you have ever heard a Camper (or Alum) say, “I am my best self at Camp”? Some of this is due to the magical quality of belonging in a place that explicitly lives prosocial values. For kids, the experience of being in a group of peers (and subsets of cabins, teams, majors, divisions) that is guided by the principle of inclusion, both satisfies that need to belong with an unequivocal way to create belonging for others. Everyone matters. Everyone has a place. For those of you who were Campers yourselves—or have witnessed the beauty of a Wednesday Night show—you can remember the countless times when Witherbee and Mimi’s Lodge erupted into chants of “THAT WAS AWESOME! THAT WAS AWESOME!!!” These cheers ring out for both the most talented performances and the most humble and brave. Likewise, it is the “Spirit Points” awarded to teams for their exceptional sportspersonship in the face of little athletic talent or winning records that are often most memorable. Many Vespers abide with Campers as they quietly come to understand their bunkmate’s different life experiences, all while carrying that unshakeable feeling that, “We all belong here, together.”
Camp is inherently a growth-oriented place, an inclusive place—a place for children to try new things. It’s a place where they can make mistakes, be a bit outrageous, and begin again, while surrounded by the love and support of peers and the corrective support of adults. We wish this for you too, dear parents. Even as adults, may we continue a journey of growth, no matter how quietly. As humans, we need these same opportunities to nurture us to our full potential. May you seek and find spaces where you feel you belong, where you see yourself as part of a whole that lives in service, that is inclusive and kind. May this feeling bolster you through difficult times and help guide you with an affirmation of your own evolution towards your “best self” alongside your amazing children.
You and your family are always welcome in our Camp community that encourages service, kindness, and generosity of spirit. Our hope is that together, we fulfill the great need of belonging. YOU are awesome. Let this mighty cheer propel you in strength and optimism through these challenging times.
How might a values-centered life be supportive at this moment?
Summer 2020: One to remember. We hope that you and your children are as well as can be, finding silver linings of peace and love as you make this unique summer its own “best possible.” What has been supportive to you and family? Time in nature? A good meal? Perhaps performing some service or rededicating yourself to meaningful work? We sincerely hope you are finding some joy and hopeful purpose to lighten your days.
As summer turns toward August, and the new realities of what the fall might bring are coming into focus, we send along some humble thoughts from Camp. We offer these for reflection to support you in the task of complex decision making. We know you are navigating a balancing act that will continue to present some parenting challenges. If you take nothing else from this article, we hope you remember: you are doing your best and it is enough.
One way to honor our best efforts when faced with making complex decisions is to explicitly identify our core values and work to actively choose them, again and again. Naming which value is most prominent in any given decision can remind us of our effort to turn best intentions into actions. At times one or more cherished values may conflict; perhaps unexpected pandemic realities have afforded you the opportunity to reevaluate how you have been living. Just as we do with our campers, we encourage you to remember your best self in these uncharted times and encourage flexible thinking as you seek clarity and joy.
Thoughts on Values
But what is a value anyway!?
You might think of it as a principle upon which you base meaning in your life. These are often ideals that can center how we want to live or who we aspire to be. We intentionally build discussions around values with our campers each summer. We guide conversations by encouraging campers to identify people they admire. What is it about these folks that they are drawn to? Is it their generosity? Their determination? Their patience, kindness? Their humility or strength? We encourage campers to select their top 6-8 values (noting that these will likely change throughout our lives, and that’s ok!). Try this exercise, too! Sometimes reflecting on memories of our happiest moments, as well as the most painful, can provide some insight. Once you’ve identified 6-8, write them down. As you spend time in your daily life, making decisions mundane and weighty, practice naming the values that are guiding these choices. Perhaps it is good health that you value; your meal choices can reflect your commitment to that. Perhaps it is service to others; you have agency to build intentional ways to put the Other Fellow First into action. Whatever you face, notice your decisions, your commitments, and your actions.
Thoughts on Values Conflicts
There are times life will present us with difficult and conflicting choices, situations and even people. Keeping your values central can be helpful to quelling inner conflict. Sometimes there’s just no perfect answer. For example, one may value financial security AND meaningfulness of one’s work; now, more than ever, these may not always align. Recognizing this dissonance and accepting the complex nature of these challenges can help us to develop a practice of self-acceptance as we try to do our very best. Perhaps a value that cannot be compromised will lead you toward a pointed change. We all do our best to live fully in an imperfect world, and honoring our core values may indeed be one road map to name explicitly. With a goal of balancing both effort and acceptance—effort to set and aspire to high standards and acceptance of our limitations, yet joy is still possible—is a valuable skill to model for your children as well.
Values at Camp
At Camp we work to create a space for Campers to explore their own values within a social context. We invite them to express themselves genuinely, openly, and with caring and respectful interactions with their peers. At Dudley and Kiniya, we foster the rich tradition of living in an intentional way through a culture that promotes positive and affirming values for all. We focus on explicit discussion about what it looks like to live our motto each and every day. The exploration of these values often takes place during Vespers, especially for our older Campers. We work to foster ownership and awareness of core values alongside the resilience to navigate complexity. By bringing to life these core values through lived experience and decision-making, your children are supported as they develop and grow.
In our most recent Strategic Planning process in 2015, we were able to distill Camp’s Core Values by gathering feedback from the larger community survey. Character, Leadership, Community, and Stewardship clearly emerged. Combined with the motto, The Other Fellow First, Camp’s “true-north” propelled us in our good work as we carried forward our 2020 Vision Statement.
This August, your plans and goals may be eclipsed by global disturbances; nothing can provide resilience, grounding and encouragement to do the next best thing like a sense of one’s personal values to provide some light to carry you forward. We send you love and support as you navigate the troubled waters with One Light to carry as you go.
One Light shines out across the sky.
One Star with many roads thereby.
A Beacon to draw you on;
A Blessing that fills you from
The Child that you carry as you go.
One (Light) to carry in your heart.
A promise you have before you start
To bless you, to keep you,
To never leave you weeping in the dark and threatening seas;
To bless you, to keep you,
Across the troubled waters of your gold and silver seas.
As the school year comes to a close and we move into a unique rhythm of summer, we hope you have found some moments of sweetness in your homes and communities through this abnormal time, dear parents, and that your children are doing well. The changes and demands have been sweeping, and your best efforts have been exceptional, no doubt, as you’ve navigated through it all.
Inspired by our Spiritual Program at Camp, where we begin each day with a Chapel Talk and end each day with Vespers, we invite you to reflect on what has evolved for you and your family over the last few months. And more specifically, are there any “new normals” you have come to appreciate or cherish within your family? Have you found experiences of deepened relationships, closeness, or fun? Perhaps you have developed a sanctuary of sorts in your home, courtesy of a slower pace of life. By calling to mind these moments of love, connection, and peace, you are acting as a fountain of your own wellspring of resilience. May these positive moments shine in your mind and heart for a moment as you pause.
Our hope is that you have found some personal comfort as you have given that to others in the spirit of Camp. The absence of a calendar full of usual commitments may have brought a welcome respite from a pace of life we couldn’t have imagined ceasing all at once before the pandemic. As states and communities begin to reopen—though these activities have likely been greatly missed—we recognize that some of us may not yet feel ready to exit the home sanctuary. Does this ring true for you? For those of us who have felt a grounding through quarantine and social restrictions, we encourage you to embrace your feelings without judgment. Be where you are at this moment. There’s no need to rush—to be any way or feel anything besides what you do. Accepting yourself where you are is a true act of self-care and self-love. Each family will need to navigate, emotionally or logistically, this re-engagement with the larger world on its own terms. Give yourself permission to find your own pace.
One can’t help but wonder, are the days of busy packed schedules over…? At Camp, we encourage kids to respect their limits and those of others; we extend this same wish for you. It will take time to understand and navigate the many, evolving “new normals” over the coming months. Your pace of adjustment may be different from your neighbor’s, and that’s okay.
We hear from many of our community members that what they miss most are in-person interactions, embraces, hugs, high-fives—the ability to easily be amongst friends. FaceTime calls with Camp buddies may be second-best to a hug. With various degrees of actual in-person hangouts across our country, we turn our thoughts to the importance of embracing others with respect to individual desires and comfort levels. Indeed, the foundation of the camp motto!
Just as we exercise self-awareness, honesty, and vulnerability, we must use this patience and goodwill in order to understand others. This is the work of the heart and the head. As parents, you’ve practiced this with your children from day one. Through their different stages of development, you’ve worked to understand their changing perspectives on the world. Your deep love as a parent is unmatched. It is a force like a superpower.
Over this past month, in particular, we have seen many in our community working to live our motto through their words and actions. Balancing the energy for both yourself and those around you is an especially poignant challenge for parents. Even if you are feeling depleted, simply embracing others and accepting each, individual frame of reference with curiosity and attention and without judgment is enough. It is the gift of your presence.
We, humans, are social creatures, and we are also meaning-making machines. Everything we see passes through our unique filters of perception, to be categorized and stored, in an attempt to make order and sense of our world. This can create a distancing from the truth of others and their lived experiences. It is natural and human that we carry biases, taught or developed, and that they impact us silently and without our conscious attention. As we do our best to raise children empowered to see clearly, we invite you to practice the application of deep curiosity for the experiences of others. We can all continue to grow. Many in our community are talking more openly about race and racism, as our news feeds fill with unrest and critical, nationwide conversations. Being fully and truly present for people is the ultimate demonstration of actively living The Other Fellow First. Parents, we applaud your ability to do this already. If you are seeking thoughtful ways of engaging your children in conversations of race more specifically, we point you in the direction of this resource, Embrace Race.
We hope that you and your family stay well as you engage in the important daily acts of love, forgiveness and understanding. May you discover and create new memories of closeness and joy during this time. Remember, you are doing your best, and it is enough. We wish you peace and comfort amidst life’s unfolding.
At Camp, we aim to create a strong sense of community, one where we recognize how our actions and decisions impact those around us. We try to see each camper as they are and to celebrate their unique experiences, personalities and identities. With these things in mind, we help foster their growth in a community where all are supported and loved.
Campers often grow through challenge, both personal and collective. Keeping in mind developmental needs as guideposts, we encourage them to find and live each day to their greatest potential. We do this by designing and monitoring an environment that is experiential and interactive, meeting each camper wherever they are. With fun at the center, our team integrates personal feedback, leadership role modeling, peer relationships, and independent choice, all with the intention of stimulating explicit growth. This includes walking beside them to navigate mistakes, disappointments, and losses. Our goal is to help build a resilient attitude, one that will contribute to a healthy and happy mindset, inspired by living the Other Fellow First.
In these historic times, it is hard to capture the many unique challenges facing our families and campers. While we do not assume to know all of your personal circumstances, we have been honored to receive stories from many of our conversations with you—those that carry some familiar themes. Many of us are grappling with:
- ongoing personal and collective change and loss
- more intense engagement with fewer people in confined spaces
- the continuous management of uncertainty.
Thoughts on Ongoing Change and Loss
There have been many changes beyond our control over the last few months, and many are fraught with disappointment. Lost reunions, camp seasons, classmates, graduations, team sports, championships, and celebrations of all sorts name but a few. We recognize that for parents experiencing their own grief, helping a child to manage theirs takes a tremendous amount of energy. Trying to keep a positive attitude for friends and family while dealing with the emotional wear and tear to the self is exhausting.
We know that processing your child’s grief and loss is best done both with and by you, dear parents, as you center your own family’s values. “Making meaning” out of particular family losses requires heavy lifting, and it is sacred. For those searching for additional support, we offer a few thoughts:
Younger children benefit most from reassurances that are specific. What actions can and do we take to keep our family safe? This age group will bring natural curiosity. Gift them with honest answers. Let them know you don’t have them all, but that you’ll be the ones to provide both security and boundaries. Older children may grieve in bursts—more unsteady from one day to the next. This is befitting a teen in general, and absolutely normal. Letting these developing humans feel all of their feelings and role modeling your own will implicitly give them permission to feel secure in their uncertainty. Stay present and listen. Let them describe (or act out) their highs and lows as you give them your full attention. By showing that you are steadfast in your belief in their process—messy as it may be—you will empower them to name their own challenges in ways that will carry them forward. Even without all of the answers, the time that you offer them— through listening, talking, engaging—is perhaps the most essential form of support. We can all benefit as we try to make sense of the uncertainties together, each in unique ways.
We hope that you can also find a supportive friend or relative to be that listener for you. At Camp, we try to find ways to help each other thrive by seeking someone to validate our thoughts, feelings, expectations and struggles. Without racing to find an immediate “silver lining,” simply being there to serve our Other Fellow through this process is uplifting to both. If you need someone, reach out to us at Camp. We’re here for you and we are happy to listen.
Thoughts on Nurturing Relationships
How does a parent manage all previous roles while also facilitating at-home-learning for school-age children? The pressure you may be feeling can strain even the best relationships. While you’ve likely established some new routines, feeling overwhelmed and frustrated can center the question: “How do we nurture relationships under such conditions?”
At Camp, everything happens in the context of relationships. Cabin mates are pseudo siblings. Leaders are like uncles and aunts. We develop our leaders to be authentic and self reflective in regard to their own challenges while focusing on being kind and supportive of others; this modeling is intentional. Regrouping as a cabin “family” with vespers at the end of each day offers time for everyone to share their thoughts with trusted peers and role models, providing an opportunity to nurture respectful and honest friendships.
Research suggests that adolescents who know and are able to tell their family stories with themes of vulnerability and resilience have higher self-esteem and more protective tendencies. Could knowing the challenges that our grandparents, parents, siblings, and role models faced and overcame provide us with a belief in our own innate ability to make it through tough times? Could relationships beyond our own experience nurture us? As our Leaders hope to create an environment that encourages authenticity and vulnerability in a Cabin, we urge you to take active steps to reach out to those who may cultivate these connections in your own family as we move through the coming months.
Thoughts on Managing Uncertainty
As much remains uncertain for the long-term trajectory of this pandemic, plans will likely continue to be difficult to make. Disappointments will be ongoing. Uncertainty can be aggravating at best and deeply uncomfortable. If you feel overwhelmed by worry and anxiety, it’s important to know that you are not alone.
Purposefully creating “stress busting” routines for yourself may be as important as drinking enough water on a hot day on the upper fields at Camp. What kinds of practices come more easily in your family culture? Can you identify what works and do more of it? Prioritizing the basics—sleep, nutrition and exercise—is a great way to anchor each day. Try to find useful distractions to interrupt stressful thoughts, invite in more self-compassion for yourself and others than you think necessary, and practice simple, daily gratitude and intentional relaxation. One reliable and relatively easy way to help young people manage uncertainty is to spend time in attendance to basic needs, relaxing through mindfulness practices, and giving permission for healthy distractions.
For those whose family’s basic daily needs are also uncertain, please reach out to us. We are more than ready to help, and we hope you would trust us to connect you with resources and support.
A new summer unfolds for us all next month. As your family’s virtual school year ends, we hope you can take a breath to discover new rhythms together. Let go of what you can. Try hard to relish some of the joyful spontaneity that come from these uncertain, unplanned weeks. At the same time, invite in structures and routines that might bring you into spaces of listening, playing, building and sharing. We applaud you as you continue to put on the many hats that you wear for your children each day. Please do be in touch with reflections, and let us know how we can best support you from afar.
We hope you take advantage of the Camper Corner, set to begin June 29th, with a variety of Camp value and pillar inspired activities, videos, and musings.
At Dudley and Kiniya, we center our daily work on supporting each camper to find their inner strengths. The Camp experience pushes each person to build resilience for meeting challenges, to practice gratitude for all that we have, and to create the spark of imagination in service and love for the other fellow.
It is our humble goal to share the following thoughts in hopes they are supportive to you, dear parents. Rest assured that we will continue to add content and resources to this hub. This communication today is purely an introduction to the kind of support you can expect from us moving forward.
Perhaps our thoughts will spark conversations, activities, or even a family vesper as you create new rhythms, routines, and rituals together at home. And, a gentle reminder: Leave this right here if what is most needed is a break from any more sense of things one “should” do right now.
Thoughts on Grief
This remarkable time in our collective history presents challenges that fall especially hard on parents and caregivers of children. There is no easy way to grasp the depth of sorrow of those of you experiencing the loss of friends and family members to this pandemic. Our hearts and thoughts are with you; may the knowledge that you are important to this unique community and that we care deeply about you help as you navigate your grief. May your circle of friends—virtual as they are—be those who see you in your brokenness and wholeness and as a support to you and your children.
For all of us, these are highly abnormal and stressful times. Some of us are struggling to meet basic needs; some struggle to work in entirely new conditions while homeschooling children and caring for older loved ones. Upheavals and drastic changes leave us spinning with new demands on attention and energy. Compassion for oneself and those around us who are likely not at their best has never been in higher demand. When it comes to grief, there is no “right” way, no prescribed timeline, no immediate answers. May your process be one of patience, kindness, and gentle permission to heal in your own way. Despite distance or separation, remember to let others care for you all.
Thoughts on Resilience
Your camper is aware of the balance of freedom and responsibility that comes with exercising their independence at Camp. Consider asking them to recall specific ways that helped them take ownership of their experience at Dudley or Kiniya. How might these translate to their ownership of schoolwork, chores, entertainment, and support of others around them? Some attitudes, approaches, and messages from friends and Leaders may come to mind. You can remind them of the mindset that helps foster resilience…
“Today I did my best, and it was enough.”
”I did what I could, and tomorrow I will try again.”
One skill that may stand above all others at this moment is the ability to embrace imperfection. If you can, take a moment and acknowledge ways you may be holding judgment for yourself around all the demands that you face. Self-compassion and the resolution to try again tomorrow may be the absolute root of resilience. You are managing a tremendous amount in the best way that you can. And it is enough.
Thoughts on Gratitude
Gratitude expressed is a powerful thing. For those of you who haven’t heard it today, thank you. Your children are blessed to have you in their life, no matter the struggle. At Camp we work to think of “the Other Fellow” through acknowledgment of that which has been given to us. In doing this, we cultivate awareness of how interdependent we are, and how much others have given and impacted us. Letter writing is a big part of Camp. Consider writing letters of heartfelt gratitude with your children to those living outside of your homes. Be as specific as possible, describe what this person has done for you and how their behavior and actions have impacted you. Let them know what is happening in your own life, and how their presence comes to mind now. The hope is that it nourishes good feelings in both writer and reader, something that bolsters emotions in trying times.
Thoughts on Radical Support
Campers learn about radical support in Mimi’s Lodge and Witherbee Hall. “That was awesome!” chants, standing ovations, and extra-loud cheers for someone taking the stage for the first time are common to witness on Wednesday and Saturday nights. Your camper may need an invitation, but they have learned how to both entertain and appreciate others’ performances. Remind your children of the power of radical support: giving kudos to the effort, daring to be brave, and finding friends who love them for it. These are all skills that transfer to our lives under these circumstances. Might they be willing to entertain YOU, showing their ingenuity, humor, and imagination? Learn a new family game together, choreograph a dance tune, or videotape something to enjoy again and again. Let your kids name the game. Whatever shape it takes, may radical support and encouragement be at the center. May fun bless your family. Stay joyful together.
Here at Camp, we are keeping you all in our daily thoughts. May your families take some of the lessons from Camp to navigate these uncharted times. May compassion, gratitude, creativity and loving-kindness steady us all as we go. Know that what we all have committed to doing, we do for the safety of the other fellow. Give us a shout if you need to—and remember “to laugh and love and lift.”