Last month, we introduced to you all Camp Echo Lake’s Foundations. This week we are highlighting one of our foundations, empathy.
Connection: “BRIDGE IT”
- As Echo Lakers we believe in creating meaningful relationships, valuing each person in the community, respecting the individual, and including everyone in the group.
- Why? Human connection is the basis of a strong community. The ability to connect with others provides fuel for personal growth.
Please enjoy Tony’s blog post about connection and learn more about why it is such a crucial part of what we promote at CEL.
Several years ago, around this time of the year, I received a call from the parents of a camper who was getting set to go on 4n4 that upcoming summer. Their son had some concerns about where he fit in socially in his group and in particular, he was concerned about one particular camper in his group with whom he had great difficulty getting along with and who he felt had made things more challenging for him.
After several conversations with those parents and the parents of the other camper, the summer arrived and the entire group prepared for their incredible trip out west. I recall my own feelings of uncertainty about how things would turn out for these two boys as they headed out on the trip.
Fast forward four plus weeks and the trip has arrived back at camp and I am watching these two boys on the top bench of a set of bleachers during an evening activity. Not only were they sitting next to each other but they had their arms around each other’s shoulders. I did a double take and then a huge smile came across my face. I was witnessing what the boys had accomplished with the help of some very intentional guidelines we build into Echo Lake – and in this case, the 4n4.
Left to their devices, most people from the youngest to the oldest naturally gravitate towards situations and people they feel most comfortable with. On the 4n4, each day our 4n4 staff assign which vans the campers will travel in, who will be sharing tents or who will be sharing hotel rooms. As we know that people learn and grow when they are asked to move outside of their comfort zone, so we know that ensuring that our 4n4 campers branch out from those they know best allows them to form connections with other campers that they had not previously been close to. The story about the two boys above is not a unique one when it comes to the 4n4 and is what I think is the singular most special part of that program.
I have long subscribed to an untested hypothesis that left to their own devices, 75% of children will have a good time, no matter what, if you put them together in one place. The second part of my thesis is that it takes a thoughtful and intentional camp, or community, to make it a special experience for the other 25% of the children, and to give 100% of the children a far more meaningful and enriching experience than they might otherwise have.
We have always felt passionately that the connections our campers make with each other and their staff; the connections our staff make with their campers and each other; the connections we make with our camp parents, maintain with our Echo Lake alumni, build with our vendors and with our home community of Warrensburg are the very cornerstone of what makes Echo Lake what it is for so many people.
The time and thought that goes into how we can help all members of our community connect with each other pays great dividends – the 4n4 example above is just one of thousands. With the right intention, our campers have it within themselves to make the connections that will enhance their lives. For some campers it happens naturally and for some it happens with a little help and perhaps even over time. Helping our campers make those connections is our highest priority and our greatest reward.