When my daughter called to tell me Covid-19 was sweeping through her freshman college dorm last month, I peppered her with questions. Had she and her roommate been tested? How soon until their results? What would they do if they were positive? What were they going to do next? There was a pause on the other end of the line. “Ya know mom, I’ve never really navigated a global pandemic before, so I think at this point all I can only do is live this thing day by day,” she answered. I laughed. Indeed, she was right. I mean, who of us has navigated an event the likes of this? But then she and I began a conversation about what, if anything, had we experienced that could have prepared us for these unprecedented times? As good Girl Scouts, we identified the lessons we’d learned at summer camp as being pretty helpful. Before you roll your eyes and think “kum by yah,” here’s what I mean.
Lesson 1. Buddy Checks. Every day at camp, whether before heading from the unit or after swim lessons, the counselors led campers through buddy check. With all twenty-four kids matched up in twelve pairs, there would be a count-off to make sure all were present and accounted for. Is your buddy with you? Everyone here? Is anyone lost? It was important to make sure everyone was all right and ready to take on the next event.
What about you? Have you checked in on your buddies lately? Are your friends all right? It’s time for a count off. It doesn’t have to be elaborate; no daily hour-long call to your buddy on the opposite coast is required. But why not send a text that says “Thinking about you. Are you okay out there?” Have you DM’d the co-worker you used to regularly grab coffee with? Have you called your siblings? Take time every day to reach out to at least one person on your list to make sure they’re all right.
Lesson 2. Say Grace. After buddy check, the first daily activity was trekking through the wooded trails to the dining hall for breakfast. Once we were inside and seated, we paused to give thanks for the food in front of us. We sang a blessing and even those who didn’t believe in God were encouraged to show appreciation for the hands that had prepared our meal, the people who served it, and those who would clean up after. We acknowledged we had much to be thankful for, even if it was only a box of Fruit Loops and a banana.
Today none of us wants to be dealing with a global pandemic. Six feet apart, masks donned, and near-constant hand-washing are not anyone’s idea of a grand time. But there is still so much to be grateful for. A pet. A spouse. That beautiful sunrise. The cup of coffee in your hand. All these things, big and small have been gifted to you. Pause and say thank you.
Lesson 3. Be Prepared. Each night before lights out we would tell our campers what the next day’s activities were going to be so they could organize any needed equipment. The rule was “Be Ready”! If we had archery, it was not the time to wear a bathing suit, and if we were going to rec games, athletic shoes were required for running around. Swim lessons meant goggles and a towel. You get the idea. Showing up in sandals for a two mile hike was not only impractical, it hindered the rest of the group if we had to wait around for the flip-flopper to catch up, fix their blisters, and hobble along. Being prepared was demonstrating respect for self and respect for others.
Likewise, life will run more smoothly during this unprecedented time if we apply the principle of being prepared to our current tasks at hand. As many of us work from home while playing the roles of part-time teacher and IT consultant for our schooling-from-home kids, there is a tendency to show up sporting pajama pants and an untamed mass of hair. Pajama pants were created for the important job of sleeping and getting rest, but when you log on to your employer’s network or assist your child with lessons, your assignment at that moment is not sleeping or getting rest. If you’re wearing pajama pants while doing these tasks, you’re wearing the wrong outfit. I’m not saying you have to wear heels or a tie to your basement home office. But like deciding between flip flops or hiking boots, you’ve got to figure out which uniform that is going to encourage your productivity and not get in the way of you doing your job . What’s that for you? Pants with a zipper? A collard tee? Would you feel more productive and inclined to work if you washed your hair and actually blew it dry before you sat down at your laptop? Set yourself up for success; be ready and respect the importance of the job(s) you’re doing.
Lesson 4. Take a Hike. My body feels no greater joy than when I am walking outside on a wooded path simply enjoying nature around me. Even my kids who go to fancier camps than I did with cabins and bathrooms that rival spas tell me their favorite part of camp is just being outside. Tall pines whose tops sway in the wind, crows that caw in the early dawn, and the sound of feet on a leaf-strewn hiking path provide a comfort that grounds a person like no other tether.
Do this favor for yourself: Go for a walk. Take a deep breath and listen to the birds twitter in the trees. Feel the sun warm your face and the breeze blow your hair. Joe Biden, Donald Trump, and the CDC all agree this is good medicine. You cannot go wrong in any way with a hike (OK, I’m a lawyer, so yes, I know there are many ways a hike can go wrong, but mountain lions, falling rocks, and getting lost aside, you know what I mean). Just get out there. It’s easy and will restore you in a meaningful way.
Lesson 5. Find Fun. For eleven years at camp, each of my Wednesdays was spent partaking in the Counselor Talent Show, an evening that consisted of campers dressing up their counselor in insane costumes, making up skits for them to perform, and judging them on the ridiculousness of their show. It was silly, pointless, and as a camper (and later as a counselor), my favorite night of camp. Campers loved coming up with creative ways to flaunt their counselor, counselors loved putting down the “boss” role for a bit to ham it up, and everyone loved laughing at the results. On our way to the dining hall Thursday morning, we were a closer group, rehashing and guffawing over the previous night’s shenanigans. We praised each other’s good ideas, applauded performances, and reveled in the entertainment of it all.
How are you having fun these days? No, really, I mean it. You’ve got to create something that brings some lightness to this place we’re in, otherwise it will feel dark and heavy fast. Is your family watching a new funny show together or taken up a nightly game of HORSE at the basketball goal? What about the people you work with? How are you having fun? Zoom Bingo? YouTube dog video watch parties? Taking time to laugh together and share silliness makes all of this a little more bearable. But it won’t happen by accident: Find the fun.
That’s it, ya’ll. Getting through this pandemic season is no easy feat, but you can do it well with a little camper ingenuity. So circle your crew around the flag pole and pledge to get through this monumental phase in a way that not only honors your inner Scout, but grows your connection to your troop and leaves your camp site better than you found it. I have no doubt, you’ve got this!