Building Empathy is our 2024 Summer Theme!
Empathy is our ability to understand how others feel, and building our empathy skills are foundational for closer friendships and improved well-being. In a world that is increasingly divided, building empathy is vital to cultivating meaningful relationships with people from diverse backgrounds.
Empathy is a skill that can be practiced, and this summer, we will focus on six tools to help campers cultivate empathy:
Our logo this year includes a blueprint drawing and construction tools. A blueprint drawing is one of the first phases in planning and design during a construction project. Just as architects must consider various perspectives when designing a building to meet the needs of different users, developing empathy requires understanding and appreciating the perspectives of others. A blueprint also provides a comprehensive plan for a building, considering not just its individual components but how they interact to create a functional and harmonious space. Empathy requires seeing the whole picture by considering the emotions, experiences, and circumstances that shape others’ perspectives and behaviors.
Just as construction tools are used to measure, cut, and shape materials, empathy involves using various “tools” such as active listening, perspective-taking, and emotional literacy to understand others’ experiences, perspectives, and emotions.A well-equipped construction toolkit contains a variety of tools for different tasks and situations. Just as construction tools are used to build structures that connect people and communities, empathy serves as a tool for building bridges and connections between individuals, fostering mutual understanding, compassion, and cooperation.
This summer, we will talk about how we can build our empathy each day at Morning Assembly, and we’ll be adding skills to our empathy “toolkits.” At campers’ nightly cabin campfires, counselors will facilitate empathy-related discussions, and help campers practice active listening and storytelling through daily sharing.
Building Empathy is about putting less emphasis on “me” and more emphasis on “we.” Empathy builders connect with others in meaningful ways and seek to better understand how others are feeling. Our goal is for campers and staff to become empathy builders in their schools, workplaces, and communities.
Our theme this summer builds many of our past themes related to gratitude, kindness, kindness (Cool 2B Kind), relationship building (Creating Connections), helpfulness (Give a Hand), grit (Growing Grit), positivity (The Energy Bus), a focus on friendship (Find-a-Friend), building up others (Filling Buckets), being our best selves (Be You), appreciating our community (Better Together), and Choosing Kindness (2022).
We can’t wait to build our empathy skills together this summer!
We cannot tell the precise moment when a friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over.
Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
We selected Choose Kindness as our 2022 Summer Theme because growing our campers’ “kindness muscles” aligns with our mission of equipping campers to thrive despite life’s challenges. Focusing on kindness also helps us meet our goals of building our campers’ friendship skills (Make Friends) and growing their positive character traits (Grow). Learn more about our vision, mission, and goals on our Why GAC? page.
Our kids are growing up in a challenging and divisive time. They are, unfortunately, witnessing a lot of disrespectful and mean behavior. In my book, I wrote about the importance of modeling and growing the trait of kindness in our kids. Here’s an excerpt from the kindness chapter:
The example and messages kids get from the media (and their school hallways) often do not promote kindness. Many kids learn that the quickest route to popularity is putting others down or leaving other kids out. In the perceived zero-sum social worlds of middle and high school, one person being put down means you get on a higher rung of the social ladder. Social media posts, political discourse, and cultural norms often promote name-calling and being mean, gossiping, and telling jokes at the expense of others. That’s what our kids are seeing and hearing every day, and that’s also why many kids start to consider it cool to perpetrate mean behaviors. It’s no wonder that while adults are sending hateful messages through tweets, our kids are practicing a similar level of meanness on their own media. Why are adults so shocked to hear about horrendous stories of cyber and in-person bullying when we as adults are modeling that very same behavior? But there is hope for our world, because kids intuitively understand the benefits of kindness and can be taught to be kinder when we take the time to model, talk about, and practice kindness with them.
Camp Secret #8: Make it Cool to Be Kind (Happy Campers: 9 Summer Camp Secrets for Raising Kids Who Become Thriving Adults)
This summer at GAC, we’re putting the spotlight on what it looks and feels like to choose kindness in our interactions with and response to others.
We’ll be growing our campers’ kindness muscles by:
From the moment campers arrive, counselors will be modeling for and encouraging them to incorporate kindness into their daily words, actions, and routines. “GACs of Kindness” will be recognized and praised by counselors, announced at our daily Morning Assemblies, posted on our WOW board, and talked about throughout the session.
Helping others makes people happy. It feels good to share, to give, and to be kind to others. Sometimes in secret, and sometimes in front of others, we’ll be doing kind things for our fellow campers, counselors, support staff, and those outside our camp community this summer.
One of the great things about Gold Arrow Camp is that so many people feel happy when they’re here. We’re committed to equipping our campers with habits and skills that they can practice long after their session at camp.
This summer, we’re focusing on how – regardless of our circumstances and others’ behavior – we can always choose kindness.