In last week’s blog post we introduced Camp Echo Lake’s Foundations.  This week we are highlighting one of our foundations, Resilience.


Resilience “Stay in it”

As Echo Lakers we learn from mistakes, setbacks, and failures and keep going even when things are tough.


Please enjoy Brenda’s blog post about resilience and hear more on why it is such a crucial part of what we promote at CEL.


The Strongest Trees Grow with the Wind Against Them 

We are Dedicated to Human Development at Echo Lake. In order to develop anything, though, we must challenge it. Whether it is your front crawl in swimming, your lay-up in basketball or a new combination in dance.  Whether it is your ability to organize your belongings or working through a disagreement with a friend. Whether it is your first summer at Camp or your 18th, development never stops. How do we help campers and staff develop? To begin with, we know strength comes from struggle.

More than twenty-five years ago, scientists built Biosphere 2 in Oracle, Arizona.  Essentially, it was a three-acre entirely sealed miniature version of our planet. It was constructed as a habitat for humans, as cut off from the earth as a spaceship. Biophere 2 was an artificial, controlled environment which was created with purified air and water, filtered light, and so on, offering the “perfect” growing conditions for trees, fruits and vegetables… and humans. In effect, Biosphere 2 was constructed for scientists to study how the planet’s living systems actually work, with the hope of then understanding how we might “live” on other planets.

Among other things, findings from this controlled environment would allow scientists to innovate and come up with new ideas related to the growth of plants. The trees inside Biosphere 2 grew more rapidly than their wild cousins outside this sealed mini-planet. While they grew quickly, the trees were thin and weak with underdeveloped root systems. Some trees even fell over from their own weight. Initially, scientists were mystified. Why would trees not thrive in this “perfect” environment? Their major discovery was something they had never expected. The trees were weakened by the absence of the one thing not included in Biosphere 2: wind.

In the wild, trees must withstand strong wind and as a result develop what botanists call stress wood or reaction wood – strong, fibrous wood that vastly improves the quality of life for a tree. Without stress wood, a tree can grow quickly, but it cannot support itself fully. It cannot withstand normal wear and tear, and survive. In other words, it is with exposure to wind (or stress) that trees are able to develop the resilience they need to fully thrive in the long run.

What does that have to do with us? What does that have to do with Camp? In our own lives, it is challenge and struggle that spurs our growth and strengthens our core. As we work hard to overcome challenging situations, a resilience develops within us that influences everything we do. We can sometimes spend a great deal of time thinking about stress. How do we manage stress? How do we inoculate ourselves against stress? How do we avoid stressful or challenging situations? Rather than looking at what causes stress and figuring out ways to avoid it, we want to find safe and healthy ways to engage with stress and gain strength from our challenges in order to develop resilience for the long run.

Camp allows us to change the conversation about stress and challenges. Who among us doesn’t long for a perfect growing environment for ourselves or our loved ones? If we learn from the scientists in Biosphere 2, we know that the perfect growing environment includes some wind (stress) to help strengthen our root system. At Camp, we are lucky to have just enough wind – just enough opportunity to practice being strong against the stress of a challenging situation. As your root system strengthens, you gain confidence in yourself, and you are more likely to face other challenges head on, knowing you can withstand some tests or adversity.

Remember, stress in the form of wind is what makes a tree strong enough to sustain the wear and tear that it will face later in life. For campers and staff, Echo Lake doesn’t have purified air, filtered light or other perfectly controlled conditions, but it has the right conditions for Human Development.  Echo Lake is a place designed to, among other things, develop and build your resilience.  Camp is a place where we will encourage you to turn toward the wind, face challenges, make decisions and to learn to adapt. You will be surrounded by a community who supports you and believes in your ability to face challenges and willingness to make mistakes. Camp is an environment where you can learn from setbacks and see imperfection as an opportunity for growth. The more you are open to learning from mistakes or adversity, the deeper your roots will grow, the stronger your skills will be, and the more resilient you will become.  Remember, “when the root is deep, there is no reason to fear the wind.”

With big hugs,