Empathy – Windsor Mountain-Style
Sunday Morning Meetings at Windsor Mountain are part of the soul of camp.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with our Sunday Morning Meetings, here is a little primer. Instead of gathering in the Pine Grove, as we do for every other morning meeting, we head to the Amphitheater, which is a beautiful spot down from the Dance Pavilion that overlooks the lake. Our arrival is markedly different from other morning meetings as well, as we approach in silence and reverence for the moment.
Once camp is assembled, one of our staff members introduces a topic for the group to consider and reflect upon by telling a story or two from their own lives that is relevant to the subject at hand. Campers and staff then are free to stand-up, “popcorn” style and share a thought or story from their lives. In between speakers, we sit in quiet reflection and listen to the sounds of the nature around us. We end each Sunday Morning Meeting by standing arm-in-arm singing “Give Yourself to Love,” a Kate Wolf song from 1983.
This Sunday morning tradition of gathering in a Quaker-style meeting goes back decades and is part of the fabric of camp. It is the real-time debrief of whatever segment of our lives happens to be at the fore on each particular Sunday.
This past Sunday, our topic was empathy. One of my favorite things about these meetings is that we as a staff decide the topic and the campers, through their stories and thoughts, decide the direction in which the “conversation” meanders. It became clear very quickly that what most of the campers wanted to discuss related to this topic was … bullies.
Many of the campers described situations back home (generally at school) where they felt bullied or felt like they may have done some bullying of others. What was truly remarkable is that the overwhelming sentiment was that people who are unkind to others need compassion and understanding and that you should be kind to everyone, even to those who are not kind to you. The wisdom, courage and thoughtfulness on display was astounding.
We adults have lots of cynical opinions of the world around us. Perhaps we read too much news or have experienced our own cruelties or tragedy. To anyone who needs their faith in humanity restored, I recommend sitting with us at a quiet Sunday morning, listening to the wind and sounds of your children teaching us the blueprint for goodness. Just another Sunday around here.