I truly love our Sunday evenings. I love the picnics in general, and I enjoy this particular one in particular because we host the "T-Bone Club". The T-Bone Club are all the campers having finished 8th grade that are in their last summer as campers (prior to becoming Senior Campers). During one of our picnics, we ask them to dress up and we serve them a special meal of steak, double-stuffed potatoes, green beans. bread sticks and strawberry cake. It is a fun celebration of their leadership as the oldest campers and an acknowledgement of their pending graduation.
Susie and I dress up as well, she in a classy way and I in a Scottish way. Let's face it, you do not get too many chances to break out a kilt, so the T-Bone Club is one such opportunity. [Note: wool socks in a Texas summer are not fun - this requires real commitment.]
After the picnic, we have torchlight and vespers.
Vespers is a special time where we slow down and reflect on our community and our values. We all wear white and sit around a fire at the sailpoint (boys and girls are separated - each at our own sail points). The white shirts signify nothing in particular, but are instead an effort to set the time and event apart.
Camp has so many fun/crazy/silly/loud/active endeavors, that I think it important to set aside some time for appreciation and reflection. Do not get me wrong, I know our audience. The attention span of a 7 year-old can be short, so Vespers is not even all that long.
But we do strive to deliver a series of positive messages in a way that we hope will stick with the campers.
Susie Ma'am likes to talk about how "failure is education" and that campers should embrace challenge as opportunities to learn even if not always succeed. Girls would later say "I had some wonderful failures today Susie Ma'am".
On the boys side, i try to focus on gratitude and embracing opportunities. We always have "Grateful Deeds" (a previously explained tradition where campers publicly thank other campers and counselors who have made their time at camp better). This helps foster a culture of appreciation.
I then told them about the trip I took for 30 hours to Camp Pinnacle in North Carolina yesterday. I am helping resurrect a 85 year-old camp there and they requested that I visit at least once while camp was in session. I reported to the campers that the counselors there were fantastic and the activities fun (almost as much as Camp Champions) and the campers were having a blast. It took me a while, however, to see the biggest difference. The boys there acted like most boys that you see - fun-loving, active, boisterous. In this manner, Champions guys are exactly the same. The importance difference is the fact that the Champions campers are quicker to give a heartfelt thank-you or a quick side hug. Here, we have a culture where you can be a boy and be publicly appreciative. This is not all that common, but we have it here.
I concluded by telling the "Tiger Story". It is a tale of a tiger cub that grows up thinking he is a goat until another tiger helps him find his tigerness. The gist of the story is the idea that we are all tigers - a unique confluence of talents and passions and proclivities and joys. We are deeply individualistic and capable of many things. But many people live their lives like goats - following the trends that others name or taking the jobs that other value. The challenge in life is to embrace your inner tiger and live big and bold.
To drive these points home, we ended the evening with sundaes. Each camper got some ice cream (our alternative treat if diet required) with toppings to their specifications. Once again, it is wonderful to share deep messages with campers, but it is always best to punctuate these messages with qualities treats!