Turley-Hansen: What I learned at summer camp - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

Turley-Hansen: What I learned at summer camp

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East Valley resident Linda Turley-Hansen (turleyhansen@gmail.com) is a syndicated columnist and former Phoenix veteran TV anchor.

Posted: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 4:30 pm

Year 2014 is foreboding for those who observe the steady loss of national unity. Kindness is diminishing and taking hope with it. The division among citizens is frightening.

Unsettled, my thoughts consistently return to last summer and a revealing, life-altering occurrence.

Eight grandchildren joined us in the White Mountains for eight days. We, of course, named the event Camp Gram’P. The two oldest kids were the camp counselors and papa and I were, well, we were everything else: the guardians, the cooks, the referees, the laborers. Actually, we were exhausted.

Games and crafts, target shooting and hiking, trips to the river, evenings around a camp fire, all the things one does at camp filled the week-plus. Then, there was the tradition of the camp theater. Two of the young grand-daughters put together a script for the show. The year before, the older girls had their turn and they are all good at it.

These kids are high achievers in their individual worlds. Their homes are spread across the nation, as far as Upstate New York. So when they get together, it’s a real reunion and their talents are a pleasure to watch.

All campers receive roles and production assignments. The non-writers take the job of making costumes out of whatever they can find. Well — that’s how it’s set up, but the outcome is in the doing. Isn’t it always?

The younger girls created, without guidance, a script story about hostility among school friends. But, in the end, harmony prevailed. It was a reflection of their world, our world; a forever issue among humanity. I was amazed that a 9 and 10 year old would choose philosophical-truths as their project when the approval of their older peers was clearly important.

As expected, the older girls started complaining about the script, the story, the way their younger cousins were “doing it.” Predictably there was a portion of mocking and whispering.

Gram’s job was to keep the peace and love them all. However, I wanted to lambast the older kids for their insensitivity. But, keeping in mind the lessons to be learned — I stayed steady and reminded each age group the importance of kindness, fairness and providing opportunity for safe expression.

Bed times at camp are always chaos. All the girls shared a room. The boys were elsewhere. With each night the giggles stretched longer and louder! I had worried how those close quarters would play out after tension during the day over the script. But, I stayed my distance and listened to the chatter, hoping that cohesion would emerge.

Something wonderful happened the night before the performance of the play. The girls announced the next morning that though they disagree — and will always see things differently, they determined in that dark room, in that chatter, “that they love each other and always will.”

Witnessing their self-propelled evolution was life altering. And, equally amazing, as the eight performed the skit, titled “Overcoming Differences,” they acknowledged that they, as cousin campers, had been living out the skit story line, the theme that first offended the older girls. Yes, the younger girls were vindicated. Kind hearts won out.

As we watch the harshness in our society, citizens carping and bickering, it’s good to remember that most youngsters carry peacemaking genes, only requiring occasional correction when they slip into selfish behavior.

But, have you noticed, it’s often adults who create the poison, adults who never mature, who don’t understand win-win; contentious adults who encourage self-interest over kindness?

Year 2014 offers us another chance. The role models will be the children.

• East Valley resident Linda Turley-Hansen (turleyhansen@gmail.com) is a syndicated columnist and former Phoenix veteran TV anchor.

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