One of my favorite traditions at camp is called “Grateful Deeds”. Several times a week, we acknowledge “Grateful Deeds” at our nightly “torchlight” gathering.
Here is an example: A 10-year old camper raises his hand and is acknowledged. He stands and speaks, “I want to thank Jimmy Sir in my cabin. He knew that I was having trouble organizing my trunk and he took some of his free time to help me with mine. No one even knew he did this. Thanks Jimmy Sir”.
A 12-year old girl that wants to recognize a counselor for spending extra time with her at the ropes course follows him. A counselor thanks one of his campers for befriending a camper three years his junior (on a no-name basis) who was a little homesick.
We believe that you can see a group’s intention by where it puts its attention. The stories that we share help form the community we will become. With this in mind, we chose to start the tradition of “Grateful Deeds” so that we can celebrate the stories that reinforce our values of Respect, Responsibility, Reasonable Risk-Taking and Reaching Out.
This year, we are also stressing the sharing of “gratitudes”. For example, the leader of Torchlight might share something that she or he is grateful about. The high school Senior Campers have a nightly ritual where they share 3 gratitudes each evening. We have encouraged every cabin to have a gratitudes ritual as well. Recent research has shown that people who create a habit of listing things they are grateful for become more optimistic and positive. We want to model this behavior.
This works for an interesting reason - when campers and counselors spend time each day “sorting” for examples of things to be grateful for, they simply see more such examples.. It also increases the “coolness” of doing these things. As a result, the individuals in our community is not only looking for examples of exceptional acts by others, but they are also looking for opportunities to do them as well.