“If you have a choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.” –RJ Palacio, Wonder
In theory, this phrase sounds so simple. In reality, creating a community with kindness in mind can be tricky to establish, especially with so many outside factors and variables. With so much unkindness appearing in the world, how do we reinforce this basic human decency? At camp, we intentionally create a community where choosing to be kind is easy, and each camper feels they have the tools to always “choose kind”, regardless of the circumstance.
What does choosing kind look like?
Before going to sleep at camp on our first night, each of our bunks establish a bunk contract, or a set of guidelines campers and counselors in that bunk agree to follow for the remainder of camp. Our campers have the freedom to brainstorm and collaborate on this contract with their bunkmates and counselors, and each member of the bunk community signs the contract before the end of the night. Our Wico girls agree to choose kind when they ask before borrowing a bunkmate’s book. Our Wico girls agree to choose kind when they agree to keep their own areas neat so as to respect their communal living space. Our Wico girls agree to choose kind when they agree to listen to one another, and allow themselves to respect the opinions of others. These guidelines, and many others brainstormed by our campers creates our community where kindness becomes a default.
Learning how to “choose kind”
Wico girls learn the tools to choose kind, even in moments of discord. Our campers and staff are taught the art of the “I Message” to express their feelings advocate for themselves when something goes wrong. A key component of this is the “meaningful apology”, where campers learn to empathize with one another. At home/when using social media, we can hide behind the façade of a glowing screen, allowing acquaintances or friends to be “ghosted” away in time. At Wicosuta, there is no space to “ghost”. Learning how to confront a friend, express hurt feelings, is a true skill that translates much further than our physical campground. It gives our campers tools to discuss, learn, and connect with others, creating a deeper understanding of the thoughts and feelings of those around them. This, in turn, is choosing kind.
At Wicosuta, we thrive in a place, free from the constraints of technology and the outside world, where our girls can always choose to be kind. They expect it, and learn the tools to recreate it, both in camp and beyond.