This week’s My CEL Journey Monday comes to us from Providence. Providence has been the Director of our music program for 6 summers and currently resides in New York City where he works in the music industry all year round. Please enjoy his reflection on what he has taken away from his journey at CEL…
Over the course of five summers at Echo Lake I’ve had countless unforgettable experiences and possibly learned more about myself there than anywhere else. The following are the top five bits of wisdom I’ve taken away from the legendary Camp Echo Lake. Each day that I am able to put these ideas to use, I fall asleep a very happy man.
I’ve never met a person I admired that didn’t have a strong sense of respect for both themselves and the people around them. We’ve all heard the saying “life doesn’t come with an instruction book,” but if it did, developing respect would be, and is, the first page to building a rock solid character. Respect is not flashy, it’s not edgy, and it’s not a new idea, but it matters; it’s the foundation for being a good person. Each summer Tony and the staff at Echo Lake highlight respect as a core value of the community, and that has always resonated with me. It’s part of what makes Echo Lake a special place. If everyone in the world showed genuine respect for one another, we’d cut our problems in half.
2-Meet Your Monsters
Take risks. Everyone knows the age old maxim that urges us to step out of our comfort zones and into the unknown. Today more than ever we’re targets for a billion inspirational Instagram quotes, motivational tag lines, and ninety-nine cent store refrigerator magnets that urge us to “do something today that scares us.” These all have their place, but if I had to guess, I’d assume the conversion rate for every time someone reads a “quote of the day” about taking risks, then goes out and applies it, is pretty low. For me, Echo Lake has been an environment that actually facilitates and nurtures the process risk taking in real time; it’s a place to take a chance and feel supported and safe while doing it. I’ve seen kids and counselors encouraged to try something new for the first time, take the leap, then feel amazing about themselves afterwards. I’ve tried things for the first time at Echo Lake that have gone on to become important parts of my life. It’s how real growing is done.
There are infinite theories out in the world today on how to be happy. But the secret is simple and free, and its at the heart of the Echo Lake ethos. The quickest way to happiness is always to make someone else feel amazing; it works every time. Whether it’s publicly recognizing someone, giving a few genuine words of appreciation, or a random act of kindness, they all lead to the same place, and you always feel incredible once you’re there.
Three summers ago, about a week before the end of camp, everyone assembled in Senior Village for what is always the most anticipated, entertaining, and fun line-up of the year; EXTREME line-up. The scene was set. A wild, clamoring, frenzy of campers and staff had convened on the Senior Village deck all dressed in outrageous outfits like pro wrestlers and circus acts and the cast of Braveheart all rolled into one. The air was filled with cowbells and whistles and adrenaline. Just as the first evening announcements were about to be howled, the sky opened up and what felt like an ocean fell down on us all. It was dramatic, extreme, synchronistic, and as if God had orchestrated some magic for us all to enjoy that day. It was the most epic August rain ever. Sometimes the most incredible moments line up in life, and you have to be ready when they happen. We can’t predict or explain how these moments line up, but it seems like the more times you are ready and willing to embrace the possibilities, the more the magic happens.
5-Attitude, Attitude, Attitude
If I had to pick the single most important takeaway from five summers at Echo Lake it would be Amy Stein’s famous mantra ‘attitude’. The greatest champions in sports, business, and life, have always been the ones with the power to manage their mindset and see problems as opportunities to improve their skills, produce solutions, and turn a challenging situation on its head. Before coming to Echo Lake I hadn’t thought too much about attitude or mental toughness. After a few summers, all the moments and epiphanies that happen when you are surrounded by an world class group of people with heart and soul and a strong positive outlook on life start to add up and have an effect. It’s transforming and it’s priceless.