There is majestic maple tree just outside our Camp office with a crack so wide you can sometimes stick much of your hand in it—just don’t try it when the wind is blowing because it can close on your hand! (Yes, I speak from experience.) Our maintenance man, and retired logger, has been itching to unleash his chainsaw on it for years, but I have held him off. I’ve held him off, in part, because whatever vulnerabilities this tree has- and there are several- it still leafs out every year and is otherwise viable.
Much has been written and TEDx’d recently about the value of embracing our own vulnerabilities – Brene Brown’s video on the topic has been viewed more than 39 million times! Her central theme- that vulnerability is the birthplace of joy and creativity – resonates with those of us in the summer camp movement. Children come to us with many vulnerabilities and childhood, by its very nature, is a most vulnerable time. We in the camping field are charged with helping kids accept these cracks, even embrace them, as the birthplace of joy and creativity. We do so in contrast to a world that, in Brown’s words, strives to “perfect, most dangerously, our children” who are “wired for struggle.”
It may seem counter intuitive – this idea that embracing our vulnerabilities will bring us joy- especially in this day of self-promotion, self- aggrandizement and the ubiquitous “selfie.” But for those of us who have been lucky enough to see this play out with kids in the camp setting, it’s self-evident. Building whole-hearted courage, modeling compassion and fostering connection are at the foundation of any traditional camp experience. To paraphrase Brown, the camp experience can give children the courage to be imperfect. To let go of who they think they should be, in order to be who they are.
I was reminded of this the other day when I heard Leonard Cohen’s, “Anthem.”
Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
Despite the crack, our maple tree gave us plenty of sap this spring syrup season. And, if one looks closely, even on this dreary April day, you can see the buds that will become this year’s leaves. And with just a bit of imagination, if you walk the campus, you can hear the coming laughter, joy and ringing bells that will soon be echoing through the woods.
Thanks again for making Camp Mishawaka a part of your summer!
PS- And in case you are wondering, this tree is not near a building or any path travelled by campers or staff!