Blog  Compassion and Our Culture of Kindness

Compassion and Our Culture of Kindness

by Louie Goldsmith, General Counselor

Compassion is critical to a cohesive camp community. Though compassion commonly connotes passive comprehension of others’ condition, what characterizes Crane Lake compassion is that it consists of an active component. And when every camper and counselor in our community commits to this code of conduct, we cultivate the caring climate of kindness that characterizes Crane Lake summers.

My experiences with compassion began during my very first session. As a new camper in Lower Bonim (6th grade), I was introduced to this most vital of virtues, not just in the words of the staff but in the actions of my bunkmates. From my first day, Crane Lakers of many summers took me under their wing, showing me kindness, teaching me traditions, playing games alongside me and ensuring that the time I spent in our Bubble was the happiest of my life. To paraphrase Lucan’s Pharsalia, the Crane Lake community lives by the credo that no one is happy if something more can be done to ensure we are all happy.

This idea that we all care for and are reliant on one another is evident not just in the joyful recollections of bygone years spent playing, learning and growing, but in my very first Crane Lake memory. That first evening, I was down by the clear, blue lake, sweat dripping down my brow as the strong rays of the summer sun shone their last over the distant Berkshire Hills. It seemed as if everyone else on that sandy beach was singing, some rollicking, raucous tune which I had never heard. I sat alone, having retreated from the unfamiliar crowd and their music, to lean on a tree a few meters away from the bunkmates whose names I still couldn’t keep straight. Before I was enveloped by the stinging spasm of inescapable despair, a kid in my bunk jogged towards me and asked if I would come sing with the group. I sprung forward, elated at the invitation, and we talked as moved back into the mass of campers and counselors, singing and dancing, laughing and cheering. Then, without a word he disappeared from my side. I felt abandoned, as if my momentary connection to the community I was surrounded by was irrevocably severed. But before I could skulk back to my tree, three, then four, five, six boys in my bunk came over and started talking to me. It wasn’t forced or awkward, they weren’t acting on the directive of some adult. Rather, that was how we did things at Crane Lake. And as I joined in with them, singing our song, I turned around to see the boy who had brought me into the mix leading another new camper to join our circle of friends.

This culture of compassion has grown and flourished during summers I have spent at camp. When I returned as a staff member for the past two summers, I was astounded by the omnipresent nature of acts of compassion in The Bubble. Among the Lower Chaverim Boys, every single camper exhibited this kindness and compassion, often in situations I wouldn’t have dreamed it possible. From the sandy courts of volleyball to the expansive wilderness of Teva, no place was immune from the inescapable grasp of their commitment to kindness.

This uncanny awareness of the potential of each individual’s actions to improve someone else’s day, and therefore the whole community, is instilled in every Crane Laker from day one. And from my first day, to this past summer, and for the rest of my life, I will have the unique privilege of being both beneficiary and benefactor of this special brand of constructive compassion.

 

Louie Goldsmith is returning as a general counselor for my eighth summer at Crane Lake and second on staff. He hails from Brookline, Massachusetts and is an avid Boston sports and WWE fan. He just finished his freshman year at Yale University, where he is a prospective EP&E major. He is involved in the Independent Party of the Political Union and is a representative on student government. His favorite summer activities are roofball and pool, but nothing can top fight song.