Wednesday, November 9th 2016
We are currently on the heels of one of the most divisive and charged election seasons in the history of our country, and certainly the most charged in our young lifetimes. While some are exalted, others are in dismay. Those who feel hurt need time to heal, and those who feel validated are ready to press forward – however one message that has been conveyed by President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and President-Elect Trump in the wake of last night’s election news is vital to the success of our country, and vital to the success of our children: we must learn to work past our differences, and past our pain or sense of vindication, in order to move forward together.
When we send our children to camp, we hope that they will come home happy and more independent. However, we are not so naïve to think that they will not experience disappointments, contention or frustration during their summers away – in fact, part of the reason we send our children to camp is to allow them to face these challenges and work through them in a structured and supportive environment. Every summer, various children struggle with this reality: they feel their counselors are not listening or their bunkmates are not empathizing. And yet, with the help of camp directors and staff, they learn to listen. They may not learn to agree, but they learn to move past their differences. And because they overcome these experiences, they emerge stronger than before.
Similarly, the teens we ask to coexist on their summer programs will ultimately disagree with their fellow travelers. In fact, they may find that they simply do not like some of their program’s other attendees. But they cannot disengage, they cannot act divisively – otherwise that all-important element of any teen program, the fabled “group dynamic”, will simply fall apart. And so they learn to live with one another, and they learn to coexist; with the help of leaders.
Of course I am not comparing the disagreements of teens or campers to the feelings of discord that permeate our nation today. The implications of an election are more visceral, more real and impactful, and farther reaching than any disagreement between campers or any dislike between teens. However, in both cases, the path to a solution is just as clear and just as challenging: we must put aside our differences, unify, and move forward. That is what builds strong campers and strong teens, and that is what will make us a truly strong nation.