Jody Sataloff – Guest Blog
“Remember who you are and what you represent.” Back in my camp counselor days in the early 70s (good grief, was it really that long ago?), this was the abiding ethic, the ever present rule of law, that Betty Cobb expected us to live by. Anytime we left camp proper she sent us off with that reminder. We all rolled our eyes and scoffed at this repeated admonition. I suspect that most, like me, didn’t appreciate the value of those words until we were true adults with kids of our own.
Remember who you are and what you represent. Those eight words pack a punch. For me, they pretty much represent the myriad of life lessons I learned at Camp Runoia.
- Who are you, and who do you want to be? Are you a leader? Are you a risk taker? Are you an optimist? Are you kind, empathetic, generous? Runoia taught me to try and be all those things. I might have been one of them when I arrived there….I hope I was many by the time I left. I remember the thrill as a young counselor of being in charge of my first camping trip with young girls — that rushing sense of responsibility, the new feeling of a sort of power to be in charge of the kind of experience others would have. And I remember the nervousness of leading my first overnight sailing trip, recognizing the risk of all that could go wrong, but forcing myself to charge into the experience with enthusiasm. I remember being stuck on a rainy day in the boathouse with a class of young sailors, miserable with the weather and being “grounded…and realizing the importance of putting a sunny side on the experience and coming up with games like Dr. Knickerbocker and Pin the Telltale on the Sail. I remember wanting nothing more than a quiet rest hour to myself and having a 5th shacker suffering from homesickness need comfort that took up the entire hour. Wonderful growth, wonderful life lessons.
- We are all part of something bigger, be it a camp, a family, a place of employment, a school….and when we are out in the world, our actions reflect back on that bigger thing we are part of. It’s important to remember that, that what we say and what we do has a giant ripple effect and we have a responsibility to those to whom we are attached in one way or another. We represent them. We are obliged to do it well.
- Throughout our lives we will encounter one tough situation after another. It’s not the ones we walk away from that are remembered. It’s the ones we face, and how we choose to face them. Remember who you are and what you represent. For me, going through life, recalling these words, I try to reach deep inside myself and locate the strong girl/woman Runoia helped me to become. I try to make decisions based on that strength and on the good judgement I learned to try to use in life. While at camp you had no choice but to become flexible, learn to make compromises while you were living in close proximity to others, combat fear to try new things, be kind and caring all along the way. In other words, you learned to be responsible. And learning this at camp, it was all important to me when I had kids of my own to instill this same sense of responsibility, this same sense that we do not walk through life alone, that our steps have consequences on all whose lives we touch, that we owe it to them, to our families, our friends, our co-workers, our communities to take those steps with courage, with strength, with compassion, with grace.
I carry Betty’s phrase with me throughout both my personal and professional lives. Whenever my kids walked out the door, I heard it emanating from my mouth. I have it in my head when I speak or act in public. It is just one of the many Runoia building blocks that have hopefully made me a better person than I ever could have been without it, without Runoia.