What if the world was like camp?

As I write to you today, our country is feeling so much intense grief and pain.  The losses associated with the Covid-19 pandemic – of both human lives and experience – have been so difficult to absorb and process for so many of us.  Our natural way of grieving has been interrupted.  And now our country and the world are faced with the inexcusable death of George Floyd, and our grief is joined by so many other emotions – anger, frustration, sadness…helplessness.       

Human beings being discriminated against, for any reason, is simply unacceptable. Maybe you’re like me and are struggling with your search for answers to some very tough questions.  Questions like, “Why?” to “What can I do?” or even “How do we make lasting change?”  I wish I had the answers to those questions, and to so many more.

Over the years, I’ve heard both volunteers and campers say countless times that they “wished the real world was like it is at camp.”  Why is that?  Is it the food?  The canoeing and four-square?  The healing circles?  I don’t think so.  I think what they’re really saying is that they wished the world lived the core values that are demonstrated at camp.

But what is it about camp?  What happens there?  What’s so magical about it?  It’s actually very simple. Everyone at camp—staff, volunteers and campers – extends LOVE to each other. How does that happen?  It’s simple, really.  No one is judged and everyone is accepted.  Everyone is included, heard and validated. They feel respected because they are respected. The result?

Love. Healing. Community. Family.

What does that look like?  Well, at camp we slow down, we are fully present, and we really listen to each other. We encourage kids to talk and share.  And when they do?  Their feelings are validated and not judged—even when they differ from others. We show empathy by putting ourselves in their shoes and imagining what their journey must be like, even though it’s different than our own.  We create community through simple acts like making room for someone at a table, asking others to join in on a group game or cheering someone on as they take a risk at the climbing wall.  We celebrate accomplishments – those “pin-worthy moments” – with smiles, high-fives and, yes, pins.  But also, with love.

Love is extended.

The result? Kids blossom, grow and heal in front of our eyes…and a fun and safe community is created. But what if that type of love and care was extended beyond camp? What ripples would it create?  What change could result?  I’ve struggled with the knowledge that there are so many grieving kids out there and that realistically (and unfortunately) I can’t reach them all, no matter how much I may I want to. Instead I try to remember that I’m out here fighting to help as many as I can, hoping to make a lasting impact on all those that I can reach.  

Could we apply that same intention, that same love and care, to impacting those we encounter every day?  In our workplace, with our friends, in the cities and towns we live in – in all our “personal communities”, in person as well as on social media?  I think so.  I believe we can.  We can impact so many people by how we live our lives each and every day. 

I challenge our CZC community – volunteers, campers past and present, staff, donors and other supporters – to live, love and listen in your everyday lives as if we were at camp.  If we demonstrate those core values every day and everywhere, we will see our communities “grieve, heal and grow.”

A famous quote, often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, states:

“Let’s be the change we want to see in the world.”

I would simply add one word, “Let’s be the lasting change we want to see in the world.”

 Together let’s create a bigger and brighter light of love.

Lynne B. Hughes

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