A couple of evenings ago, I was sitting in a field with our 9th grade campers. One of them posed a simple question:
“Was it a hard decision to decide to run camp this summer?”
I explained that it was. We needed to determine if we could do so in a way that would be healthy, responsible and fun.
“Has it been easy?”
“What kept you going?”
I was not quite expecting this. Perhaps it was the stillness of the evening, but I found myself briefly caught without an answer. I thought I had heard all the questions before. I could say what research we read, who we spoke to, why we thought camp was extra important this year and almost every other question. But I had not thought about what might have been my source of strength.
The answer just popped out, “I got help from my mom.”
The conversation drifted to other subjects before I headed back to the house.
But I kept thinking about that answer, which I know to be true. What I did not share is that my mom (the Silver Fox) passed away last November. She did so somewhat unexpectedly, but in a way that enabled her to express her love and gratitude to all of us. She also made it clear that she was prepared for what lay ahead.
The Silver Fox led a remarkable life noteworthy for her service, her kindness and her commitment to community. I can honestly say that I never saw her yell or belittle another person. While whip-smart, she valued kindness above intelligence.
One of her favorite plays was “Harvey”. In it, the lead character (Elwood P Dowd) is potentially crazy, believing in an invisible 6-foot rabbit named Harvey. After leaving a highly successful career in finance, Elwood spends his time with Harvey and engaging everyone he meets in warm conversation, usually inviting them to a coffee or drink. She loved a particular quote:
“Years ago, my mother used to say to me, she’d say, ‘In this world Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”
She also approached every challenge as a chance to make a difference. She had a quiet, patient determination in her projects.
When she passed, I felt an odd confluence of emotions. Sadness was one of them, but a surprisingly small one. Perhaps the two most powerful were gratitude and responsibility. I was grateful for her love and her example. I felt a responsibility to honor her legacy.
When thinking about running camp in this chaotic time, Susie Ma’am and I had many talks about our camp community. At the time, I was unaware that the Silver Fox was whispering in my ear, “You two have got this. It will be tough, but you are ready for the challenges.” I am simply surprised it took me this long to fully grasp this truth.
So . . . we are running camp.
And trying to be oh so pleasant!