Last weekend, Charlie learned to ride a bike. He’s my youngest and trails three teenagers in our house. He is funny, he is smart, he is kind. And he’s a little quirky. My older kids will say that I let Charlie get away with everything. In reality, I just hope Charlie tries anything.
When summer rolled around, I wasn’t sure he would get on that overnight camp bus. Even as we stood curbside, other kids connecting with those they had planned to sit with, it wasn’t clear to me how this story would end. But Charlie smiled for the requisite picture and off he went into hands I trusted.
I scanned those photos every day. The back of his head? Saved as a favorite. Among the sea of kids on the red color wars team? Got it. Dressed for Shabbat? You bet. And then I got a postcard that read, “Camp Chi is almost over” with a sad face emoticon. My heart swelled. I couldn’t wait to talk with him about his experience—what he liked, how he felt and even what he might miss when summer ends.
“In the beginning I felt a little nervous but when I got there it felt really nice. One thing I really liked was both of the adventure courses. The only sad part is Chi Burning when it’s your last day there and the next day you say goodbye to everyone you met and get on the busses and go back to wherever you got on the bus at.”
Charlie came home from camp happy, lighter, more confident. He talks about Chi almost every day and he’s already counting down to next summer. I sent a note to the camp staff expressing my gratitude. And in response heard, “I must say that I saw a change in Charlie throughout the session. He really opened up, high fives, singing, dancing in the Dining Hall, smiling! Camp does important things and that becomes the ‘magic.’”
I have spent my career matching donors with their philanthropic interests. And, like you, I have been asked to support any number of organizations and causes. I’ve sent in envelopes, attended events and bought raffle tickets. Check, check, check.
But giving from the heart is a new feeling for me. When I asked Charlie how it felt to learn how to ride a bike he said, “I feel accomplished.” Followed closely by, “At Camp Chi, they teach you how to try things.” Today, I’m supporting the life-changing experience of Jewish camp. Not just for Charlie but for all kids. And you know what, I feel accomplished, too.