July 2, 2021
As I age (and, hopefully, become wiser), I come to value kindness more and more.
As a young boy, I admired great athletes. Roger Staubach, the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys was my obsession.
In high school, I started to admire people who were smart.
In college, I treasured wit, especially rapid repartee.
As a camp professional, I found myself longing for patience and understanding. These attributes, by the way, remain critical and I continue to strive to improve in these areas.
But about a decade ago, I found that I deeply admire kindness and kind people. The documentary about Mr Rogers was a source of both joy and inspiration. As I think of favorite movie characters, they are often those who are kind to a fault. For example, Jimmy Stewart portrayed some iconic kind characters (“It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Harvey”). Peter Parker, Spider-Man’s secret identity, is famous for his fallibility and kindness. The young boy in the animated movie “Up” is just nice. Kimmy Schmidt and Ted Lasso are fantastically kind.
Media in general and social media in particular do not reward kindness. They often foster outrage and indignation. The algorithms make it clear – outrage is what makes us turn on the TV or choose the next social media post.
But camp is the inverse. Kindness has real currency here.
On Wednesday night, we had three counselors from Mexico offer to cook some authentic food from their country for the entire staff. We simply gave them a credit card and they shopped, cooked and shared at our weekly evening meeting. It was lovely. [Note: the meeting happens after campers are down in their beds. Half our leadership team supervises the cabins with help from the Senior Campers – thus we have a chance to get all the counselors together once a week.]
Every day, we see counselors being kind to campers and campers being kind to one another. One of the sights I especially love is seeing older campers reaching out to younger campers. That rarely happens in normal life. Our schools are separated by age, as are our extracurriculars. There are few places where a 13 year-old will interact with an 8 year-old. To be clear, these interactions happen in moments throughout the day – we do not schedule the older campers and younger ones to the same activities. But in the Filling Station (Dining Hall), during some evening activities and just walking around, I often watch the small acts of kindness that light up a younger kiddo.
Last night, we got a twist on the theme. The youngest girls brought kindeness to the rest of us. They made encouraging “Post-It” notes and spread them all over the girls’ side of camp – in the bathrooms, on doors and at the main office. The spelling skills might be suspect, but the intention is clear. It was a marvelous way to start our day.