A time for practicing gratitude

November is a month that brings many things to our minds. In the US, it’s a month that includes Daylight Savings Time Ending, our recent Election Day, Veterans Day, and ends with our favorite Holiday, Thanksgiving. The eleventh month ushers in a lot to celebrate including gratitude and family. November is also Native American Heritage Month. In the early 1900s, Indigenous peoples began to be recognized for their significant contributions through heritage and historically in American life today. It is important for us to celebrate the Native Americans culture past and present.

At Camp Wekeela, honoring the Native American heritage is both purposeful and substantial to our camp. That’s why most of the buildings around camp have Native American names. Our newsletter, “The Wigwam”, and the Council Ring (where we hold lineups and weekly campfires) are also derived from Native American words. These names have important meaning at Wekeela as we honor those that came and lived at camp before us. The Iroquois nation was a five-nation confederacy. The Iroquois power was felt from Maine to Mississippi. Throughout Maine lived the Abnaki tribe. Abnaki (or Abenaki) belonged to the Algonquians. Their native tongue was Lenape. At Wekeela, we believe that we must appreciate, not appropriate, the Indigenous cultures and phrases.

We cannot have a blog about the eleventh month on the calendar without mentioning Thanksgiving. The Wekeela community is reminded daily about gratitude at camp. During Rituals (before bedtime) campers share what they are grateful for. In the camp dining hall, there is a gratitude board where campers and staff can post what they are grateful for. Talking about gratitude also provides our camp community with the opportunity to display random acts of kindness. It costs us nothing to be kind. We don’t know what anyone is going through so be nice. Showing acts of kindness may be as simple as taking the time to help someone finish props for the camp talent show or offering support to a camper who is struggling with a new skill. These examples depict a selfless behavioral response of compassion and/or action from one person to another, a healthy mindset that includes the well-being of other staff as a priority for our daily interaction. Being nice or kind requires a personal decision to put aside your own interests to help someone else, even if that requires extra effort on your part.

Showing kindness increases a sense of happiness. When you do something kind, the person, or group, on the receiving end of your gesture feels gratitude. Camp life is challenging, and living in a community can be stressful, but experiencing kindness can lead you back to feeling positive about your own situation. When we feel gratitude, we are happier and more able to help others. The circle of caring keeps repeating.

Below here are the Wekeela tips for practicing Gratitude this November:

  1. Participate in Wekeela Rituals: Just like at camp, start winding down your day with a version of Rituals. The simple act of putting closure on your day, whether as a family, or individually, can help to more restful sleep, better days, and less stress at night. Rituals like asking questions, reading a book, listening to calming music, or joking with others are wonderful ways to appreciate your day, reflect, and start fresh for the next day.
  2. Spend time in nature: Wherever you live, reconnecting with nature, just like at camp, can allow you some peace of mind during the busy holiday season. Spending time in nature is proven to lower stress and help to discover new things. Spending a few hours on a hike, under the stars, or on the water can really help you feel grateful for what you have and what life has to offer.
  3. Put the phones down at meals: There is no more important time during the day than family dinner time. So much of our lives are consumed in social media and our phones. Taking the time to put your phone away for meals, especially family dinners, is an important way to be grateful for your company and your food itself. It’s also more healthy to eat without a phone than with one.
  4. Write notes to those you’re grateful for: One of the most popular sessions during our Staff Training periods is our Gratitude workshop, in which staff write letters to those they want to express gratitude for. Taking a few minutes to write a handwritten letter to someone important in your life and then sharing that letter is scientifically proven to increase your happiness. You can learn more in this video.
  5. Volunteer or give back to the community: Connecting with one’s community can be a rewarding experience, not only to put your own life in perspective, but also to connect with others in your community that may be less fortunate. No matter the experience, connecting with the community can help to spread gratitude and holiday cheer before the holidays.

To all who continue to show kindness throughout the off season, we thank you!! We are so grateful for our amazing, resilient campers, their wonderful parents, and our dedicated staff for having confidence in us again this past summer. If there’s one thing to be thankful for in November, it’s Camp Wekeela and our bucolic setting in the beautiful state of Maine. During this 11th month of the year, let’s remember what we truly must be thankful for and what is meaningful to us. All the best to you and your family at this great time of gratitude around Thanksgiving. Keep those campfires burning; Camp Wekeela starts the 24th of June. Let the countdown begin!