August 10, 2016
OK, my last couple of blogs have been light-hearted, so please allow me a more serious one.
Frankly, I want to brag a little on our community.
As I have mentioned in previous blogs, we have a truly international camp family. We have campers and counselors from every continent except Antarctica. They come from over 15 countries and 18 states. At any point, we have people who can speak around 10 languages.
We believe this makes camp richer and more fun. We are delighted that people will fly across oceans to be part of our family.
But this is an odd time to be international. Before camp in March, I got an email from a father in Mexico. Here is what he shared:
“I am writing you, with an open heart, because I am concerned for the first time in my life of the “prejudgments” that recent political rhetoric has brought into us; Mexicans.
I am an adult, and I can handle this, but I am concerned about my kids.
I have educated them to see Americans as friends, and equals, but I am concerned other kids might be seeing them differently this year because of the “political atmosphere” in the US.” [End email]
I wrote him back to assure him that we love and value everyone in our community. I could not promise that no camper would say anything insensitive, but I did promise that we would address anything that might happen with respect and sensitivity.
Five days ago, the same father wrote me again. Here is what he shared:
“This time I want to write to you regarding one thing I noticed when we picked up our kids a week ago.
At one point of the ceremony we stood to pay our respect to the American Anthem.
One thing we are “taught socially” back home is to always remember “the USA invaded Mexico in 1847”. That leaves all of us Mexicans the wrong feelings about this past history.
I am one of the people in Mexico that believes this is history and it is a waste of time and feelings to think of the past. However, I would never imagine my children, especially my son, would be so proud to sing the American Anthem.
Last night watching the US female soccer team play at the Olympics we heard the American Anthem and [my son] proudly sang it again.
When you see your little one love so purely there is no way hate can flourish in your heart.
A few months ago I wrote to you about my concerns that my kids would be treated “differently” this year because of the ugly language in the current political campaign has pushed toward us. Well, let me tell you. I do not know what you do or how you do it but you have a “special place” in your Camp. A place where a son of a Mexican, an 8 year-old kid feels part of the American Dream in only 2 weeks!
Thank you Steve. Thank you for opening your Camp, heart, and helping enlarge our paradigms.
I look forward to see more International kids there next year. I can guarantee at least 2 of them will be there while feeling as American as you have been able to make them feel.” [End email]
I have rarely been as proud or delighted.
We strive to create a place where we celebrate all of our cultures while also honoring our country. This letter makes me think we are doing a pretty good job.