One of the things we talk about in the cabins, at program areas, in the Lodge at meals, at evening activities, and even on trips is: being nice. Sometimes, campers need to be reminded about this, and it’s our job, as caring and responsible adults, to do this in a loving and constructive way.
At the first campfire of the summer, Jem and Debbie talk about being kind and respectful to each other. It’s not only the right thing to do – it’s expected here. This is a value we reinforce throughout the summer. Before we leave on our first S-Day trip, Jem reminds everyone they are leaving Camp Laurel and heading into the outside world, and we want our campers to be great citizens so they feel terrific about themselves and they represent Camp Laurel well.
Kindness and respect are key ingredients to a happy cabin life, and therefore a happy summer. It’s a value we speak about regularly, and reinforce when necessary. Fortunately, we have an environment at Camp Laurel that fosters respect and kindness, and we watch random acts of kindness and respect occur all day long.These values are important at camp. They’re important at school. They’re important at home. And, of course, they’re important in life!
The seven weeks we get to spend with campers each summer is precious. It’s an opportunity to build character and boost confidence. We have the opportunity to be the backdrop for millions of memories and connect people who can grow to be lifelong friends. In today’s world, the pressure to succeed at all costs seems to have become the focus, more so than the ideals that promote kindness, empathy, moral compass and self-assuredness.
At camp, children are guided to solve conflict through understanding and compromise. They learn that differences of opinion can be discussed without resentment or anger. Campers learn to talk about their feelings and truly understand the feelings of others. We tell our campers that not everyone will be your best friend, yet we treat everyone with kindness and respect. These are values that will serve them well throughout their school years, in the workplace and in their communities.
At camp, each camper has a story to tell. Each child arrives at camp with a history, a background, baggage (no pun intended), fears, strengths, and perceptions. As campers begin to integrate with each other, they quickly see how different they all are, but how those differences don’t need to divide them. There is no “us” and “them” at camp. We are intentional about fostering a generation of helpers, includers, and givers. We know that if we want a world full of people who care about each other, who don’t judge each other and who seek out opportunities to make others feel good, we have to start with the kids.
Campers return home with more friends, improved skill-sets and a lot to talk about. But our goal is that each camper leaves camp with stronger character, and that we can instill basic morals and ideals that will help them become better students, siblings, friends, and eventually, adults. Camp is safe, camp is fun, and camp is designed to better the lives of campers and their families each summer.