Od lo gliti eich. I have not yet discovered how. Tovil oti haderech ul'an ani holeich. Show me the way and where I am going. - Naomi Shemer
A new year. Last week we celebrated with apples and honey, and casted away sins with bread crumbs floating past. We entered a period of introspection and asked many questions of ourselves. Tonight, the gates are open. Raw emotion is sitting in the front row. Asking for forgiveness is hard. A new chance. How can we make better choices? Where are we going and how can we get there?
Looking back at the past year, we should feel good about what we accomplished. There was personal growth. There was love. There was achievement. And yet, there were plenty of occasions where we stumbled or fell. Sometimes, we're so busy trying to get from A to B that we forget that we can be more intentional with our interactions with others. We can be more patient and understanding. We don't have all of the answers.
A new year. We have no idea where we are going. That's scary, exciting and everything in between. And yet, we know that we'll figure it out at some point. We can be more attentive while navigating our journeys. We can listen more carefully. We can accept that we don't have all of the answers, and that finding them can be a rewarding part of the process.
Keep my tongue from doing harm, and my lips from lies and deceit.
Before those who wrong me with words, my silence be my practice.
Before all human beings, let humility be my stance.
Open my heart to Your Torah, that I may follow its sacred path of duty.
Shatter, at once, the malicious plans of those who would do me harm.
Act, for the sake of Your name.
Act, for the sake of Your shielding hand.
Act, for the sake of Your holiness.
Act, for the sake of Your Torah.
For the sake of those who love You - their rescue and safety -
let Your shielding hand be the answer to my prayer. (T'filat HaLev - Mishkan HaNefesh)
G'mar chatimah tovah - wishing you and yours a meaningful fast. Looking forward to a sweet, happy and healthy new year. A year that while we're trying to figure it all out, we can appreciate what we have and what we're experiencing as we go on our ways.
*Two videos to consider: a classic (with the text used above) and a new drash on the flaws we have...
Camp ended four weeks ago. The car has been long unpacked, the laundry has been done and the supplies have been dusted off and packed away for next year. Why am I thinking about unpacking still? Well, to be honest, I've been procrastinating. For the last month, a large binder has been sitting on the corner of my kitchen table. I have looked at it frequently, but hadn't been quite ready to open it and always had a reason for why I needed to wait. Too many projects to do this week. I need to prepare for a meeting. Packing again for another trip. The list went on. But, deep down, I knew why I kept putting it off. I wasn't quite ready to come to terms (and acknowledge my connected emotions) with the fact that summer was coming to a close. Fast forward to Labor Day Weekend, signaling the final days of Summer 2015. So here I am, sitting at my table and opening the binder.
More than 200 pages of rosters, schedules, game plans, programs and charts fill this binder. And yet, it can all be summarized by the single piece of paper that is inserted as its cover. On the last night of the summer, after campers have gone home and we've packed-up camp, we place pieces of paper and pens on the tables of our chadar ochel (dining hall) - one with every single staff member's name on it. Our ritual is to leave notes for our friends and colleagues, thanking them for the great job they did during the summer and recognize the impact they had on us. Truth be told, this was the thing I was avoiding the most, and I'm not quite sure why. This summer was absolutely amazing. We doubled in size as a camp. We explored, discovered, created and developed meaningful connections between science and Judaism, as well as between each other. The camper satisfaction surveys were off the charts, signaling that our goals had been achieved and the impact we had on our campers was real and evident. I even made a few new friends!
Personally, this was one of the most rewarding and difficult summers of my life. I love my job and role at camp, and I wanted to take advantage of the many opportunities for growth. I set the bar pretty high for myself, identifying a number of areas in which I wanted to grow. While helping to run camp, supervise our amazing staff and help our campers have the summer of a lifetime, I was on a personal journey. I wanted to be more intentional about my approach to designing experiences, work on my supervisory and managerial skills, and I wanted to think differently about how I interacted with others at different points of the very busy camp day. Nothing like some light lifting, right? I read books and articles, spent time with friends, mentors and coaches, and did a lot of reflecting - both in the moment and after the fact. I left the summer exhausted (as we all do), but feeling really good about my contributions to our community and what I was taking away from my experiences.
Going back to that piece of paper, I finally looked at it, eager to read what my camp family had written to me. Words of gratitude and friendship spilled off the page (and on to the other side), and I would be lying if I said I didn't get choked-up a bit while reading them. It was hard to hold off from reading them, and I am glad I did. During this period of introspection as we prepare for the High Holy Days and look deep within ourselves, reflecting on the past year and taking count of what we have learned about ourselves and others, I am smiling. After nine summers as a camper and another fifteen summers of working at Jewish overnight camps and summer programs and perpetually feeling that I over-pack, I realize that I always come home with much, much more. Every summer that I come home from camp, I unpack a better version of myself. And that piece of paper? It represents what I was able to accomplish this summer and the person I want to be.