We joined with many camps across the country this week to celebrate Camp Kindness Day on July 20th. This is an annual initiative spearheaded by the American Camp Association of which we are an accredited member. In their words, “This is an opportunity to raise awareness of the great work that camps are doing to teach kindness in engaging, simple, repeatable, and high impact ways that live on in the daily lives of campers and staff members when they return home.”
Describing girls as nice does us a bit of disservice. “Nice” is too nebulous. It does not give us enough guidance on the actual actions required to achieve being “nice.” Kindness is a much clearer concept: it is the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate, and thus, is a foundation of camp. We see these characteristics play out every day in everything we do. Kindness is a necessity at camp, and we all need more of it in our own lives and in our relationships with others.
Much attention has been given to “random acts of kindness,”but kindness is anything but random. Kindness is an intentional action. We have to decide what we want to do to demonstrate friendliness, generosity or consideration. Kindness is a conscious choice, and it is one we must work on every day. When we reference our catch phrase, “Other Girl First,” we are again making a conscious decision to postpone our own needs, think of another person before ourselves, and to be at peace with that decision.
Our girls paid a heavy price to Covid, particularly those who were not able to attend school in either a hybrid model or full-time. There were many losses for our girls. Celebrations of school graduations, the ability to gather with friends for birthdays, parties at the end of sports seasons, Bat Mitzvahs, limited travel, etc. Our counselors, too, have lived through these same disappointments. How can you not be sad and even angry by all of this loss? Social media and Netflix became our world when we weren’t trying to attend school online.
We need to give ourselves time, space and grace to find our path forward. At the same time, we have to navigate the camp community. Coming into group living at camp really pushed comfort zones, more so this year than last because of the full school year that had passed. We walked forward slowly for our first weeks together as we regained our group living footing. Kindness was essential as we brought our girls back into a more normal existence. It had been a long time since they had had to wait their turn or share living space with anyone outside of their families, but we see that our girls have achieved this balance. Yes, there have been some stumbles. We all know how face to face interactions are so much more impactful than over texting or zoom. We found ourselves having to instantly respond to the reaction in front of us. We had to respond to the words we chose or to the action we took, but we have made it.
By being intentional in our choice to prioritize kindness, to talk about it at circle time, as a theme for Sunday program, as a focus on Camp Kindness day and in our day to day interactions, we see that our actions can positively impact others. We receive the reward of a smile, a thank you or an offer to return the favor. Our physical presence and our choices make a difference in someone else’s experience. One of the most rewarding aspects of life is to know that you have given of yourself to others. You have offered friendship, generosity and consideration to someone else, and because of your choices, they feel accepted, cared for and appreciated.
This is camp. This is what we do for each other, and this runs from the top down to our youngest campers. We are all valued members of our Keystone community. We are responsible for each other, and through this we all rise together. The world has been dark for too long, but tomorrow, you will receive a bright light of kindness, joy and love when your girl hops in your car for the trip home. She is stronger because of camp.
We remain incredibly grateful to have an opportunity to grow with your girls in kindness and love.