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A counselor delivered this drawing from a 9 year-old camper.

It made me smile.

I am delighted that he sees me as a happy person. More importantly, I deeply value the kindness it took to think about “the old guy” when he was in his cabin. I am not there with the campers on an hourly basis. Instead, I am just the seasoned veteran that runs flag-raising and some torchlights and checks in at meals.

The excellent Leadership Team and our counselors are the key people for your kiddos. They are the ones that play cards with them, challenge them to games of pickleball or ga-ga, share stories with them or just hang out with them.

With this in mind, the occasional note or drawing that comes my way is much appreciated.

I also like the fact that his rendition seems to suggest I still have some darkness to my hair. Please allow me to explain.

A couple of days ago, I overheard Susie Ma’am describing an evening event from a previous session. The event is called Ms Champini (that we will have later this session) and it involves each girls cabin dressing up one of their counselors as something from camp. Last session, the best costume went to a cicada. We have had globs, sunscreen, climbing walls and (of course) camp personalities. Last session, one of the counselors apparently did an imitation of me. The key to the costume was a loud shirt (I like to think of them as “boldly stylish”) and powder in the hair to make it grey.

As one of only 4 or 5 people over 50, I guess I need to accept the idea that “being old” is one of my primary identities. This is not limited to campers. Almost every year, I will overhear counselors during orientation contemplate one of life’s great questions, “When are you old?”

The answer according to college students seems to be “25”. Yup. That is when you are “old”. Sorry to break that to you.

But as I heard Susie Ma’am describe the Ms Champini version of Steve Sir, I strolled in. I wanted to share a story from a friend that I admire.

He told me about a mentor from New Jersey who was sitting with friends in a bar. Let’s call him Joe. Joe came from a very rough neighborhood with a strong mob presence. As you might imagine, these “old school” men were capable of extremely salty language and brutal insults. Apparently, Joe sat for over an hour while his three companions attempted every insult possible to rattle his cage. Remember – these are tough guys from Jersey – their insult repertoire was certainly robust.

At the end of the evening, Joe said goodbye to his friends and even insisted on picking up the tab. After the three friends left, the bartender approached Joe and commented, “In all my years, I have never heard anyone take that much flack and not blink. You have the thickest skin I have ever seen.”

Joe looked squarely at the bartender, smiled and replied, “No.”

“I do not have thick skin. I am made of smoke.”

To this day, I think of that as perhaps the best response to insults, slights, and adversity. I do not repel your ire; it simply passes through me.

I proudly shared this story with the girls talking to Susie Ma’am. I awaited some words of appreciation for the wisdom I just shared.

“Smoke. Like the color of your hair?”


Steve Sir