I had a conversation with a few counselors today that revealed another important part of the culture at Rockbrook, something that helps define the tone of our days here. We were standing around talking after breakfast and another staff member came up to ask me a quick question, but before launching immediately into what was on her mind, she paused and first said hello, asking how I was this morning. With genuine interest, she thoughtfully reconnected with me before dealing with her own concerns. It really struck me and when she left I made a point to tell the other staff members about how impressed I was with the encounter. “Did you see that? She was so genuinely caring, even when needing something!” It was a wonderful example of being kind and caring to others, recognizing the other people around you, and being sensitive to their feelings and experience. It was a simple expression of compassion.
That’s the vibe around here. We try to remember; the people come first. We discuss this idea and practice it at length during our staff training week, and of course keep a look out for those qualities when hiring staff members in the first place. It’s the idea that foremost at camp we are creating relationships. We are exercising those personal qualities that draw us closer to others: kindness, generosity, caring, compassion, paying attention to others’ needs. You might call it simply being “nice,” but recognizing how these qualities are outwardly focused is key. That’s what makes a great Rockbrook staff member, someone who can model these personal qualities and help encourage positive relationships at camp. When you meet a Rockbrook camper or staff member, and see that she’s so friendly, this is why.
But this staff member demonstrated the more important part of this idea— that caring should come first, not just included when it’s convenient, but first. This can often be difficult to do especially when you’re feeling rushed, when your own concerns feel urgent, or when your principled agenda seems completely clear to you. That counselor really needed her question answered, but she put me and our relationship first before asking it. Another example, and certainly a more difficult one, is when you have to reprimand someone or give a person critical feedback, like when a counselor needs to correct a camper’s negative behavior. Even when that camper’s behavior is frustrating or annoying, we try to begin by remembering the positive qualities of our relationship, the sense of mutual care and support we all share at camp. That kindness, the gentle compassion of it, makes a big difference. In a community this close, it’s crucial, and at Rockbrook, it’s something that defines who we are. Sure, we don’t always live up to this ideal, but we recognize it as a value we strive to realize.
Everyday on the back porch of the Curosty cabin, you can find girls carefully threading needles with colorful string and yarn for cross-stitch, crochet and knitting projects. That’s where the “Needlecraft” activity meets. It’s a wonderful shady spot looking out into the woods and within earshot of Rockbrook Creek babbling through the center of camp. Like all the porches around camp (There are 8 different ones, not counting the smaller porches on some of the cabins), this is a welcoming place to hang out and enjoy the company of other campers. Cool and breezy, these porches are really comfortable in the summer, great places to work on an arts and crafts project like drawing, making jewelry or cross-stitch. And as you might expect, they are likewise the scene of many hilarious conversations.
It’s been fun to poke my head into the pottery studio this week. This is one of the activities that’s immediately accessible, with simple techniques that take very little time to demonstrate and learn. Coils, slabs, pinching and shaping! No matter what age the camper, she will have an idea of what to do with that clay. It’s almost an instinct. I also noticed several girls working on the more advance skill of using the potters’s wheel. Several were really getting the hang of it too. Starting carefully, they were drawing the centered clay slowly upward forming the wall of their cup or bowl. Later, after their pieces dry, they’ll paint on difference glazes that will turn bright and colorful after being fired in the kilns. There really are some amazing works of art being produced!
Feel free to reach out to us at anytime if we can answer a question or help somehow. Thanks for your support and encouragement. Your girls are having a great time in “The Heart of a Wooded Mountain.”