Legendary children's TV personality, Fred "Mr." Rogers, once shared with his listeners how his mother helped him deal with frightening situations when he was a child. Rogers said, “When I was a boy, I would see scary things in the news. My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
In the Jewish tradition, we call the impulse to help others gemilut chasadim. Acts of loving kindness and helping others is at the heart of our camp program.
We promote values such as caring for the environment, honoring the elderly, and using kind words through activities, storytelling, and in the ways that we interact with one another at camp. Charitable giving, tzedakah, is encouraged throughout the summer and during special events like the Day of Caring and Sharing, a special day on which our campers help raise money for children with cancer, families in financial need, and others.
Moreover, at our weekly Shabbat celebrations, children are selected by camp staff for being the “Mensch of the Week.” A mensch is a person whose thoughts and actions make our world a better and more compassionate place. In the Jewish tradition, it is the highest compliment one can bestow upon another. Week after week, it is inspiring to witness our campers being honored for doing things, large and small, that make a difference in the lives of others such as welcoming a new camper to their group, being a compassionate listener, and offering words of encouragement to a fellow camper.
Written on the back of the Mensch of the Week shirts that the honorees receive is the phrase, “One Good Deed Leads to Another.” These children—with their kind hearts, contagious smiles, and thoughtful compliments—brighten everyone’s day and inspire all of us to do the same.
Similarly, during this pandemic, many members of our camp families are helping the community in a myriad of ways. Whether they are doctors, nurses, health care workers, first responders, caregivers of the vulnerable or other helpers in the community, we are inspired by their acts of selfless kindness. As Mr. Rogers said, we would be wise to focus on their efforts.