The Magic of Kindness
We’ve been talking a lot about inclusion. I’ve touted grants received to support accessibility and recognition of our staff leading the field. But it wasn’t until this past weekend that I truly understood the impact of what we do every day.
Charlie is my youngest of four. And he’s the youngest by far in our family. With three siblings clustered over just three years, the same three-year gap made Charlie a fun addition for all of us. He received attention in spades, got a cell phone well before his siblings, and is super hard to say “no” to—no matter the request. Like everyone, Charlie’s also had struggles. So much that we weren’t sure overnight camp would be a fit for him. But, as Charlie moved through elementary school and I learned more about JCC Camp Chi, the more I felt comfortable putting him on the bus to Lake Delton.
And so, he went. Try Chi. First session. Full summer. He told us on Friday night that he’s been a Chi camper seven times—so far. For Charlie, Camp Chi is everything you hear about. Home away from home. Living 10 for 2. Camp Chi magic. I bet if you Google “Camp Chi magic,” you’ll discover countless hashtags and blogs. Miriam Webster defines “magic” as “an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source.” Wow. Is there really such a thing as Camp Chi magic?
Last weekend, Charlie celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at camp on the third and final Shabbat of first session. In his remarks, in which he connected the Korach Torah portion with the concept of community, Charlie shared that Camp Chi makes him feel happy and good about himself. Throughout the service, you could hear a pin drop as his cabin- and village-mates showed their appreciation and respect for the day. Included on the benches were four campers with Keshet support who were also as patient and attentive as their peers.
I spent four days at Chi both celebrating Charlie and sharing camp with visiting members of our Women’s Board. This was my longest run as an honorary camper, and it came with a big “Ah-ha” moment. At every turn, staff are there to provide care and compassion for every camper and staffer. When our children witness countless, daily examples of kindness—among both those receiving support and those who give a little extra help—that becomes their model for community.
Camp Chi welcomes 80 campers each summer to a fully inclusive program, modeling camp inclusion for the country. While inclusion is somewhat of a buzz word today, kindness shines as bright at Camp Chi as it always has. During their visit, a long-time member of our Women’s Board shared, “I’m always happy to see things progressing and at the same time it feels just the same.” Camp Chi’s core values of Kindness, Community and Respect are felt and understood by all. To cap off the Bar Mitzvah weekend, we donated a new mural to the campus along with the other family participating in the B’nai Mitzvah. The message? Kindness, Community and Respect.
Last weekend, Charlie also felt proud. And I cried for about 24 hours straight. Yes, I was touched by the milestone of a Bar Mitzvah and the bravery it took for him to address his entire village. More so, I was taken by the friendship and love that permeates his home away from home. How truly special it is to bear witness to future generations developing values that will impact our world so positively. And to see it happen moment to moment, barely perceptible yet so impactful.
So, is Camp Chi magic real? In the world today, where we need and seek kindness, it is, indeed, magical to see it seamlessly in action every day. And that Camp Chi can create and foster a community based on kindness is magical. And that Charlie, and so many kids, teens and young adults, recognize kindness and inclusion as a way of life is, yes, magical. It’s the extraordinary power of Camp Chi.
Here for summer, home for life.