Peace, Justice, Simplicity - A Love Song
The Soul Nature of Camp...
Think about the mantra of Peace, Justice and Sustainability. In Nonviolent Communication we call these “bucket words.” They are words much like “truth,” “honor,” “respect,” “love,” “support” and so on. All can be attributed many meanings, most of which are highly subjective. They can also each be interpreted very, very differently by people depending on culture, background, value systems, life experiences and personal needs. That said, let us then define them within the Woolman community’s understanding and vision.
This word refers not just to an agreement between human souls to work for harmony and nonviolence as a means of transcending conflict, it also refers to an inner agreement with the self to follow pathways away from rage, hate or chaos. At camp, we nurture every camper for the unique gifts that they bring to the world. There is no such thing as a “bad” camper, or a “wrong” system of needs and feelings. There is light within each person. Some call this God, some call it energy, others call it anything else of their choosing. We welcome all of these perspectives and strive to hold them as sacred and valid. Our connection with campers and each other in the community is through the heart, and we commit to creating a safe and peaceful space for each other to live, learn, and grow.
Our peace testimony is active through our practice of Nonviolent Communication among the staff, our use of an empathy-based approach to camper discipline, and our commitment not just to welcoming but integrating diversity in the community. You have full permission to be who you are, and grow at the pace of your choosing. We are here to support you and in turn, learn from you too. When challenges are set before you, they will come with kindness and respect.
Your contributions to the agreement of peace and the spiritual heart of the community are of your own design. If you feel compelled to share of yourself, your beliefs, or the driving forces within you, there will be moments of gathering and reflective silence held regularly for you to do so.
Originally the meaning of “social justice” embraced by Quakers was focused on fair distribution of wealth and property, human rights, and a sense of equality. However, today conservation and sustainability are enthusiastically welcomed to the table as well. It is our belief that the continued thriving of human life is tied to conditions within the environment that supports that life. The unintended consequences of many human actions over many generations have led to a deterioration of that environment’s capacity to offer us its best.
It is a tragedy of human habit that the earth has become routinely taken for granted. At camp, we embrace the equalizing and stabilizing effect of service, among campers and staff alike. Campers wash their own dishes and participate in chore crews. They also occasionally assist with cooking and cleaning for longer periods of time. We strive to weave fun and play into this process, as it dramatically affects the way the anticipation of it is received by the soul. Tending to the organic garden and animals are also part of the camp experience. They are honored parts of our livelihood here, and we care deeply for them. The degree of joy, love and opportunity individuals derive from these processes, and further strive to teach, inspire and facilitate in the campers and each other is also the degree to which they embody the heart of the community. In this way, "justice" comes to be seen as a sense of balance---we tend the earth just as the earth tends us...
Henry David Thoreau believed that the key to happiness as a human was to “simplify, simplify.” It is within the calm, trusting nature of the ambitious heart in each of us that all of the above—from peace to justice to sustainability—are given room to blossom in an elegantly simple approach to the world. Moments of silence teach us to listen—to the world outside of us, the world within us... and most importantly to the world within each other. The games we play connect us to one another and share in the joy of silliness, not catalyze a competitive spirit. It is in this place that one can be free of hustle and bustle and put aside, even if just for a moment, the demands of daily life. It is for this reason that we do not use electronic toys while at camp, other than those needed to do our jobs in a modern world. It is for that reason that we de-emphasise the brand name logos, make-up bags, hair gel and cologne while present. It is also for that reason that the true magic of camp is often created on the spot, under the sky and sun. Connection, rapport and heartfelt friendship do not come in freezer bags to be snipped and re-thermalized when its time to administer bond-with-children units. When you are here, you are here to be all that is the unique YOU, in the purest sense of the concept.
As you dig your hands into the fresh soil of the garden, look up and remember how wonderful it is to possess the simple knowledge of how to till the earth to grow the vegetables that fill your table in the evening. As you leap into the cool waters of the pond, luxuriate in the sweetness of refreshment from summer heat as you laugh and play and sing with children. As you hike down a forest trail by a beautiful river, with each step and each tightening tug of your pack straps, remember that you are one of the luckiest people in the world to travel to such places and walk them for no other pure reason than to soak in their wonders. As you navigate the daily explorations of community life, remember that we are all simple people with caring hearts.