Friday, January 22, 2016

"grateful for it all…"

"All that I am,
all that I see,
all that I've been,
and all that I'll ever be..."

The other day someone asked me why I would encourage our daughters to work as camp counselors this summer -- long days, modest wages. I was stunned. I can't imagine encouraging them to do anything else. The above chorus from "Grateful: A Love Song…"  by Empty Hands Music, sprang into my heart. I hope you will take a moment -- or two -- and give it a listen.

Almost everything I am, and all that my children have become, I directly attribute to our years as campers, counselors, volunteers, and staff members at the Adventure Unlimited Ranches -- the opportunities for spiritual growth, wonderful mentors, and programs it offers. I do not say this lightly. I mean it with every ounce of my being.

Do I hope that my daughters will devote the rest of their lives to supporting and contributing to this organization and the programs that it provides for children, adults and families? Actually, yes. But, as much as I would hope that their hearts remain aligned with this extraordinary place -- one that lives in each of us -- my encouragement that they return to camp as counselors this summer embodies a larger dream for them.

It is gratitude. I dream that our children grow into global citizens that understand the gift of gratitude. Gratitude is much more than an "after the fact" feeling of thanks. It is a way of life. It is an empowering and sustaining way of being in the world.

No one -- and nothing -- can deprive us of our right to be grateful. And it is a right. A divine right. In the midst of the most trying times -- while facing poverty, homelessness, pain, disappointment -- we can become still enough to recognize that there is always something to be grateful for.

This gratitude is a upwelling power within us. When we realize that we are aware of some small measure of good in our lives -- good that we can be grateful for -- we bring that good into conscious being. And when we appreciate [are grateful for] this good, it begins to appreciate [grow in value] in our lives.

To live with this attitude of gratitude is to live in a state of conscious good -- of grace.

So back to camp. Yes, our family could find "jobs" that might let us sleep in later each morning, or that might recompense us in larger measure, but we will never -- and I mean never -- find a greater opportunity to nurture and develop the best in ourselves. To discover the full depth of our identities as grateful children of a generous Father-Mother God.

To give a summer -- or a lifetime -- to this "place" that has shown us our best - our most unselfed, and spiritually trusting - selves is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves. To wake each morning knowing that we will have countless opportunities to say, "thank you," through providing the same encouragement and support to a new generation of campers and camp colleagues, that we have experienced, is to live a life of beauty and joy.

Each morning that we rise in the semi-dark of dawn for staff inspirational, and every time I hear a knock on the door of my cabin after midnight, or see a camper and counselor praying together on their porch -- long after lights out -- I am grateful. And each time I catch a glimpse of a counselor alone in the corral caring for horses when the rest of camp is at dinner -- I am immeasurably grateful.  Not only am I grateful for what they are doing to support our horse program, but for what they are learning about their own ability to put self aside, in caring for the needs of another creature first.

Our daughters may have opportunities to pursue internships that could forward their professional careers.  They may be offered jobs that would contribute more significantly to our very modest college savings account.  But nothing will contribute more to them becoming their best selves, than a summer steeped in gratitude for what camp has done in their lives. A summer filled with appreciation for the spiritual values that have nurtured their "clear sense and calm trust," in God's love for them. A recognition that this same Love has afforded them priceless opportunities to attend camp every summer since they were big enough to sit on a horse.  And that Love is giving them another summer in which to say "thank you," to an organization that has so deeply blessed their lives.

So, why would I encourage our daughters to work at camp this summer? Because I can't imagine a job that will lead to a greater -- more fulfilling and satisfying -- life of gratitude, service, and joy. 

The friendships they will make, and foster, are friendships steeped in selflessness and spiritual strength. What more could I want for my children, my husband, myself -- the world?

Thank you Adventure Unlimited*. We are grateful. We are grateful for it all.

offered with love,


*for some families "camp" is represented by the Peace Corp, other summer camps, or the many non-profits that serve humanity in countless ways. This post celebrates the practice of selfless service to our common purpose -- the blessing of others, as we have been blessed.

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