July 26, 2013
One of the silly traditions that we have at camp is the Steve-Sir-double-thumbs-up.
This move involves putting your thumbs next to your shoulders, tilt your head to the side, shrug your shoulders, and smile maniacally.
The picture above shows a cabin of girls demonstrating the move.
I am sharing this with you for several reasons. I think it might help appreciate how a camp director thinks.
The first reason I love this is the fact that it makes me smile. Campers regularly greet me this way. It is almost impossible to have a bad day when 15 9-year-olds are showing the thumbs-up and smiling wildly.
Second, the campers get a kick out of it. Sometimes camp is simply about embracing the silly. The songs do not have to make sense. Every action does not need to have a purpose. Sometimes fun is just enough.
Third, there actually IS a purpose here. If a person smiles, his or her brain releases a small amount of dopamine, a chemical that creates a sense of well-being. Also, if one person smiles, the mirror neurons in the people around them make them smile as well. [This is a Camp Geek moment. Mirror neurons are part of our brain that leads to empathy. If I see someone smile or get hit, part of my brain actually thinks it is happening to me. This is why we put a hand to our face when we see someone else gets slapped. So smiles actually ARE contagious neurologically.]
The final reason I love this salute is it can serve as a real-time triage with campers that are a little down, especially the first few days. When a camper is anxious or homesick, it is very valuable to know exactly how serious the case is. If the child is only mildly down, you do not want to make too big a case out of it. More serious cases require different approaches. Here is where the double-thumbs-up is our ally. A child that is mildly homesick will smile and mirror the move. A child with a middle-of-the-road case might try the move, but his or her heart might not be in it. If the case is a serious one, the camper will just look back. That lets you know it is time to really focus on that child.
[Note: we have had a great summer for homesickness. If your child is in the “severely homesick” category, you have already heard from us. If you have not, you can assume that your camper has given us some high-quality thumbs up!]