Tuesday, July 15, 2014

“Everything I Need to Know I would Have Learned At 6 Points (if it had only existed back in the day!)”

[the words below are a transcription after the fact (and slight expansion) of my d’var Torah to the URJ 6 Points Sports Academy for Shabbat Pinchas – Saturday, July 12, 2014]

… So our portion, Pinchas, has many good messages.  From both God’s call for Moses to take a new census of the people in the 40th year, and the back and forth as God called Moses up onto Mt. Ebarim to see the Promised Land he would not enter, we can clearly see that one of those messages deals with times of transition.  I like to call such moments “L’dor vador moments,” using the Hebrew phrase that denotes movement from one generation to the next.

L’dor vador moments don’t only happen in Torah.  The other night, I was honored to receive my “5-year” 6 Points sweatshirt.  For me, that was a l’dor vador moment – not because of me, but because I was able to share it with so many of you, and together we could, however briefly, recall the people and memories, the lessons, the fears and tears, and the smiles, jokes and laughter we have shared along the way.  DONKEY [note: say it like Shrek, and understand it was a moment in my first d’var Torah that very first summer – on Balaam!]

I have been doing this camp thing for over 40 years – which, I am pretty sure, is longer than at least someone in this room’s PARENTS have been alive!  I mention that not to make myself feel old (although it definitely DOES!), but because in that time I have learned an important lesson ABOUT time – it moves differently in different places.  Here at camp, while it is happening, days seem to disappear much faster than at home.  Yet, when we look back, two weeks feels more like it was 2 months, doesn’t it?

And a generation – as in l’dor vador – is different in different places.  In the Torah, 40 years is usually a generation.  In real life, it is more like 20 years.  But, in camp time, 5 years is about a generation.  SO – if we are giving out our first batch of 5-year sweatshirts, we are turning the corner from the founding generation of camp to what I am going to call 6 Points 2.0.

You all, as campers, are 2.0 (the youngest of you maybe even the start of 3.0!).  When we came that first summer, even the second and third, we had little idea what to expect, because so much was new.  Now, the creation work is done, and the questions shift from What? to Who? or How?  Look at the CITs and staff today who we met as campers, and some of the leadership team who were first year staff back in the day.  We aren’t even the NEW 6 Points any more!  And, I believe we have more staff and CITs here right now than we had campers in session 2 that first year!

I plan on being as big a part of 6 Points in version 2.0 as I have been so far – as long as Alan and you all will have me here.  But, in life, you can never be sure, so rather than take a chance of never getting to share these words, I want to leave you with a list I have compiled.  It is based on one of my favorite essays, by Robert Fulghum.  I call it “Everything I Need to Know I would Have Learned At 6 Points (if it had only existed back in the day!)”

1.    Play hard.  Have fun doing it.  And play fair.  Because anything worth doing is worth doing right, and better when you fully enjoy it.
2.    Life has value, especially when your life is lived with values.  And those middah bracelets look so good and make great memories in the middle of winter!
3.    The day is much more enjoyable, and you learn a lot more when you are part of a team, and not just hanging out alone.
4.    Surprise packages from family and friends are ALWAYS great – even when you don’t get to keep EVERYTHING in them!
5.    Coaches really DO know a lot.  So do other adults and leaders and even your peers (which at home also translates to bosses, parents, and siblings!).  Listen to them, and even if you don’t let on that you are listening, you can learn and grow a LOT!
6.    If you are lucky in life, you have a great family.  If you are REALLY lucky in life, you might get to “create” a “family” of friends just as powerfully good, and enjoy them for many years.  I am REMARKABLY lucky!
7.    Anything worth saying is probably worth singing… with hand motions, and echoes, and harmony…
8.    Big challenges can be overcome by breaking them down into a series of small fundamental steps – and mastering each one separately, one at a time.  After all, how DO you eat that 500 pound elephant?!
9.    Don’t be afraid to take smart, safe chances and try new things.  And remember that camp, under proper supervision, is a great place to serve as the laboratory for those experiments.
10.    Always have a spotter, or a partner – to have your back, to see things you cannot see yourself, or to give you a different perspective, to give you feedback, or, in the words of Jerry MacGuire, “to complete” you.

I am sure there are more, but 10 seems like a really good number to remember!

And all too soon, we will be looking back on this summer, because of how fast time passes at camp.  So, before it becomes a set of amazing memories, don’t waste a minute of your opportunity to live those memories NOW!  
Shabbat Shalom!