flowers, field and mountains

Just prior to the arrival of our campers, I spoke at Treetops’ staff orientation about the lofty pursuit of mentoring children. In short, I presented “the big picture” of why our work at Treetops matters. Specifically, I discussed with them an Op-Ed article recently published in The New York Times Sunday Review. Entitled “The Moral Bucket List,” the column was penned by David Brooks, adapted from his book, The Road to Character.

In it, he discusses personal virtues, reflecting on the “generosity of spirit” and “depth of character” that seems to emanate from certain individuals. While he could boast of a successful career, Brooks reflects on his shortcomings in this regard, as well as a deep desire to cultivate these qualities within his own life. In this vein, Brooks speaks to two sets of virtues. The first are relevant to the resume, those skills necessary for success in the marketplace. But it is the second set of virtues, he argues, that will ultimately be recognized as your lasting contribution to this world—“the eulogy virtues.” We know their value instinctively, he writes, and yet “our culture and our educational systems spend more time teaching the skills and strategies you need for career success than the qualities you need to radiate that sort of inner light.”

While we can acknowledge that individual success is imperative to ensuring a degree of measure of happiness and financial security, “resume virtues” are not the ones that matter most. With this in mind, at staff orientation, I asked Treetops counselors to form small groups. Then, I challenged them with the following question: What are your eulogy virtues? These conversations enlivened the staff to reveal their own depth of heart, convictions and values of personal growth. It was more than a mere discussion, but a process centered on mutual connection and engagement with the community. A sense of common purpose ignited the room.

Cultivating resilience, rolling up one’s sleeves to help others, respecting diversity, and acting out of unconditional love and gratitude—these are the qualities that Camp Treetops and North Country School seek to nurture in adults and children of all ages and backgrounds. Over the last two decades of my tenure at this institution, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with countless alumni from both organizations. What I’ve heard, again and again, is that Treetops and NCS fostered in them virtues that have proven transformational to their lives today.

In “The Moral Bucket List,” Brooks concludes, “Wonderful people are made, not born.” How lucky we are to share in this process, together, at Camp Treetops and North Country School, as we guide children toward a future where they too have an opportunity to transform the world.