Shabbat-O-Gram Week 6
Dear parents and friends,
Last night the stars aligned, and for two hours, pure joy descended on camp. It was one of those rare unscripted nights that couldn’t have been planned for. Ironic, because we had spent hours and meetings planning for it.
You probably don’t think about how the role of “meteorologist” fits into the many hats Mitch and I wear here at camp, but sometimes, on days like Thursday and Friday of this week, I wonder if we should hire a real one on consult, just like we do camp doctors. While the weather this summer has been nearly perfect, when the forecast changes, which it does here on a dime, we have plans upon plans that we’ve prepared as back-ups. Rain, heat waves, lightning storms, thunder – all have their own Kingswood protocols, and while the weather’s been unbelievably amazing the whole summer, we do find ourselves moving in and out of lightning protocols a few times each week for a short storm here or there, typically followed by a brief gorgeous rainbow over Woods Pond.
By mid-week, we could see that all our favorite weather apps were predicting storms through the weekend. Shabbat rainy day planning kicked into action, with golf cart routes and staff assignments made for indoor and outdoor scenarios to move instruments, candles, sound equipment, microphones, benches, prayer books…you get the point. Shabbat rain planning is bittersweet. As good as they are, Friday night services lose a bit of the magic when we’re not outside in the chapel amongst the trees. And while long-time Kingswood staff and campers would love to have Ruach return to the Old Rec where it was traditionally before COVID, going back indoors as a whole camp and having to be masked takes a little something away from the energy of the crazy song, cheer, and dance session.
After an afternoon storm quickly passed, we made the call at 4 pm, holding out until the last possible second – to keep our plans with having Shabbat Services and Ruach outside. We felt great about it, and as the end of services aligned with a clap of thunder, as if it had been planned, we walked into the dining hall for dinner in the nick of time. After dinner we could see the rain had passed, so we moved into outside Ruach. We had done it! The weather gods were on our side! Our final Shabbat of the summer, and we never had to go to rain plans! A Shabbat miracle.
So, when the first drops fell as we were singing the fourth or fifth song at Ruach, we ignored it. As the drops increased in size and speed, you could see kids and staff hesitate. Were we going to make the call to move into the Old Rec? Our songleaders looked over to us for the OK and kept going. When buckets started emptying overhead, there was a mad dash of some campers for the porch of the Old Rec, but most stayed right up in front, connected to the music coming from the staff singing their hearts out on the stage. The songleaders with guitars moved quickly under the awning of the Staff Lounge nearby, but they all kept playing without missing a beat. As the staff looked around to make eye contact with us, wanting to make sure it was safe, we all kept going, getting more and more wet, and more and more excited by the spontaneity and fun of it all. Everyone doubled down on their spirit, and as they realized we weren’t moving indoors, kids started trickling back toward the soaking wet stage area from the Old Rec. Two songs later, and we had officially entered the Greatest Ruach of All Time: Ruach in the pouring rain! For the next hour, staff and campers jumped up and down with huge uninhibited smiles, dancing with the purest, most ecstatic joy you could imagine, partially in shock that we had been allowed to stay and do Ruach in the rain.
As I sang along with them, I scanned the faces in the crowd. I saw the beaming face of the Olim camper who I had met with earlier in the week to talk about her insecurities with her new friendships. The girls from her bunk had their arms around each other and were jumping up and down laughing with genuine warmth and happiness. I saw the seven-week Tsofim girls who had gone through some friend drama this week, beaming and holding hands with the girls they had been growing annoyed with a few days before. I saw the older Chalutzim boys who had a bunk meeting the day before about their language, and the need for them to be better positive role models for younger boys. The older boys were jumping up and down dancing (already possibly hard to imagine if you’re the parent of a teenage boy!), reaching out to the younger Tsofim and Olim boys to take their hands, bringing them into their circle as the younger boys glowed with the honor of having been included.
It’s moments like Ruach in the rain that bring our camp core value of community to life. Also the theme selected by the Bogrim for this week’s Shabbat, ‘community’ is a word that can seem like lip service or a shnazzy slogan, but for us here at Camp Kingswood, ‘community’ defines what we do and who we are. We are a community that loves being spontaneous and silly, and we are a community where teenage boys can do Israeli dancing alongside 10-year-olds and not care if they look cool enough, because their awesome counselors are right there doing it with them.
This is the power of the Kingswood community. Our size allows for intimacy because every face is familiar, from the youngest Olim to the oldest Chaluztim. We feel like a village, not a city. We have our meals all together as one camp, we play at Chofesh all together as one camp, and we celebrate Shabbat all together as one camp. Our community is unique because we have a dual focus on the individual and on the group. Lots of camps focus on one or the other, but we emphasize both. We want our campers to thrive independently, while learning to appreciate being a part of something bigger than themselves. Campers each have their own unique experience of growth and success at their own pace, whether that’s growth in their jump shot or their wakeboarding, or if it’s growth in their willingness to try new foods or approach peers they don’t know. Two campers sleeping next to each other in the same bunk can have completely different experiences based on the electives they choose and the relationships they form. But, we also emphasize the community. From the bunk to the unit to the whole camp, we teach our staff to deepen and expand these relationships, because when children feel connected to others, it strengthens their whole being. When campers internalize this positive feeling of being a part of a larger community, they ideally take that value home with them. We only need to look to our alumni and staff to know that this leads them to seek out and create positive connections in their lives beyond camp.
As we head into our final days of the summer, the camp community and the relationships kids have formed here will reach a pinnacle. Last week I wrote about the feeling of camp being home, and now is when that really comes out. Everyone’s just more comfortable, more relaxed, and more willing to be themselves without hesitation. Little annoying habits of bunkmates fall to the wayside, as gratitude and appreciation dominate the mindset shift to ‘lasts.’ This week, we will be filling our campers up with these moments, so they return home to you on Friday filled up with joy and optimism, seeking out moments to dance in the rain.
P.S. Registration has officially opened for 2023, and while it sounds crazy for those of you who are long-time Kingswood families, grades are filling up in both sessions. On August 15, we’ll open to the public, and will no longer be able to guarantee you your camper’s space. PLEASE register early, if not for the $1000+ savings, for the ease of mind that you have the bed. All fees, including the deposit, are fully-refundable until November 1, so you don’t even have to think about camp until October!