June 29, 2020
Last night, we gathered at the boys’ sail point for Vespers. [Note: Susie Ma’am ran Vespers for the girls on the girls’ sail point. As I was with the boys, I can only report on ours. I am certain hers was more insightful and lovely. I know that she talked about the 6 things that mentally strong people do:
Wow. I think I should have been at hers. You, however, are saddled with me as your scribe, so please accept my report.]
Vespers is a weekly gathering we have on Sunday night. It is a gathering during which we discuss and celebrate our community. While not religious, I do think of it as a somewhat sacred time when we appreciate each other. This is the only time we will gather at this spot and we all wear a white shirt just to set the occasion apart.
We started the process with a challenge. We were all seated in the Coliseum having just completed Torchlight, our high-energy (and masked) gathering where we sing, cheer, announce our torchlighter and have announcements. The challenge was to walk in silence from the Coliseum to the Sail Point (about 250 feet) and then get seated in silence. On its face, this sounds easy. How hard is it to walk 250 feet quietly and sit down? As an individual, that is easy. For a community of boys ranging in age from 8-17, this is not so easy. [Note: our youngest campers – the Little Leaguers – have their own gathering.] It is made all the more challenging by the fact that we leave the coliseum in cohorts (groups of campers) and then need to be seated at the sail point in the same cohorts – all without speaking.
I am delighted to report that the campers actually managed this challenge better this summer than in years when the transition is easier.
I want them to walk quietly because we have too little daily silence and reflection. We live busy and cacophonous lives. How often do we intentionally just listen to birds or wind or the laughter of the girls across the cove? I know camp life is generally loud and crazy. Schools and homes provide the distraction of Spotify, TVs, YouTube, phones, friends and other people. These are pleasant and welcome distractions, but we should also be comfortable in silence.
Vespers itself is incredibly simple. We started with “Grateful Deeds”, during which campers stand and thank someone for making their lives at camp better. We heard appreciation for the kitchen staff, nurses, counselors and new friends. One Senior Camper thanked his counselors for “being fun when we are doing everything right but being willing to hold us accountable when we are slipping”. The is about as good a compliment you can give the counselor of 16 year-old young men.
I then told a story. I shared the story from one of the other blogs this morning: Life is What You Sort For. After telling this story, I suggested that life has more to do with how you choose to perceive it than by your actual circumstances. For example, if you think the world is full of kind and interesting people, you will find most folks kind and interesting. [Note: I have also noticed that if you are able to do this, people rise to your expectations and BECOME more kind and interesting.] OK, some people might not ever seem either kind or interesting, but most do. If, on the other hand, you think the world is full of jerks, then jerks you shall find.
I then tried to tie that message into our current lives. There are many things about our current lives that not as we want them. Sheltering in place was hard. But can we find what is special about these challenges as well? For example, we can choose to celebrate having more time with our family.
At camp, do we focus on the fact that we are washing our hands 7-9 times a day or the fact that we have friends we can play with and actually give a high-five to?
These are choices. We encouraged each other to choose well and celebrate our time here.
We then ended with Sunday Sundaes. OK – some things are always nice!