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Treat Others How You’d Like to Be Treated
At camp, as in life, kindness matters. Campers learn lessons of working as a team, sharing kindness, and trying to lift others up on a regular basis. The overall message of treating others as you’d like to be treated flows through the day’s activities from cabin chores to sharing the last bits of chocolate for a s’more.
Take Time Out for Yourself
Day camps have snack time and many sleepaway camps have canteen or time to relax, recuperate, and rejuvenate. This translates years later to a community of people who know they need to listen to their bodies, take a break at times, and care for themselves.
Believe in Yourself
Staff members believe in campers and often propel them to believe in themselves. Knowing someone believes in him at a young age stays with a child—it’s what he will grab onto as an adult when things get tough. People believing in you so fiercely makes you believe in yourself.
Don’t Be Afraid to Try New Things
I learned to silkscreen, went on my first hike, took my first horseback ride, and took a fearful plunge off of a 10-foot boulder into open water—all for my first time at camp. Knowing there is always someone there to encourage her to take the plunge, hold her hand, and catch her if she falls (literally and figuratively) makes the anticipation of trying new things easier. Later in life, being scared but plunging ahead anyway takes many different forms. Whether it’s starting a new school, a first job, learning to drive, or going away to college, those lessons from camp stay with her—always.
We All Have Talents
He might be the best at finding bugs along the nature trail. She might love to build things, create stories, or solve problems. He might be the best listener, give the best hugs, or love to help others find their smile. Camp provides outlets for all to find their talents, embrace them, and continue to thrive.
Life Is What You Make of It
Sometimes at camp it rains for a week straight. Here she learns she can be miserable, sulk in her cabin, and be negative about the weather. Or she can learn to dance in the rain, find the joy of splashing in puddles and playing in the mud, and listen to the soothing sounds of the water as it hits the leaves. Life is what you make of it—be mindful, turn the negatives into positives, and always leave the place you’re in a little better than how you found it.
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Show Compassion and Learn Empathy
At camp, I met people who were different from me, which helped shape my perspective of the world and my place in it. For two weeks each summer there were kids living in foster care in New York City who came to camp. For many, it was their first time to see a large body of water or to work on a farm. For those two weeks we all had a fabulous time at camp—just like any other two-week session. Camp allowed relationships to grow, people’s stories were shared, and we learned that people most certainly do change people.
Share What You Have
I’ve officially been borrowing my best friend’s clothes since the age of 12. Flip flops made their rounds and whatever sweatshirt one could grab in the morning became yours for the day. We shared hair dryers, stories, canteen money, visiting day treats, memories, and experiences. Sometimes sharing meant your bed when a friend had a nightmare. Sometimes sharing meant your family when someone else’s wasn’t around. Sometimes sharing meant your experiences to put someone else at ease. Camp showcases that sharing is necessary, teaching us to build bridges, not walls.
Always Try Your Best
The only failure at camp is in not trying. Putting your best foot forward, jumping in, and trying your best is one of the hallmarks of camp. New campers learn there is no harm in coming in second, not getting the lead in the camp skit, or missing the goal. This lesson transfers through the decades, keeping camp’s positive attitude afloat in all of us.
Nature is Good for You
Whether it’s sleepaway camp or day camp, each day kids return to their cabins or homes dirty and tired after an energetic day. Inspired by nature’s ability to flip a mind switch, lower blood pressure, and change our perspective, kids who go to camp turn into adults who appreciate the magic of nature.
Friendships forged at sleepaway camp are some of the best I know. Camp teaches kids to meet new people and get to know one another. Counselors from 20 years ago continued to be my mentors for years after camp, and today we share travel advice and are willing to meet up all over the world. My best friends from camp have been a part of my story for more than 30 years. We’ve been there for the happy and the sad, both around the corner and across the globe. Today we may utilize social media and technology to communicate, but these friendships stand the test of time.
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