Dear Treetops Families,
Every summer, we strive to empower each camper (and counselor) to recognize the unique role they play within our community. The shape and form of what community means is dynamic throughout the days and weeks of summer — it is as teeny as a tent group and as broad as the globe, it is the ecosystem we observe in the forest, and it’s the group that makes it through pouring rain to summit a mountain together. In finding their place in a variety of groups and supportive settings, campers begin to realize their ability to contribute, the challenges of being relied on, and the joys of being a part of something bigger than themselves.
At each meal throughout the summer, campers sit with just four other campers and a counselor. This allows for meaningful conversation and storytelling in an intimate setting. Sharing meals together, with the same group for a full week, is one way for individuals to ease into summer life together. Responsibilities of clearing the table shift through the week, giving each camper a chance to both care for their small meal-time community and to be cared for by others. On Mondays we have Fund Lunch. The meal is a simple garden-inspired soup and homemade bread. Each week, the money that is saved from having a modest lunch is set aside into the Fund to be donated at the end of the summer. In the past, money has gone to our local food bank, to the Treetops Scholarship Fund, to a small school in Kenya, and to disaster relief efforts.
During Camp, campers are asked to contribute to the community through some kind of work job in the mornings and afternoons. It may be as simple as restocking toilet paper in the bathrooms or it may be as complicated as learning to milk a goat, but it is known that each task is an important part of keeping Camp functioning. Once a week the whole community comes together to do projects that can’t be done by individuals alone. It might be maintaining campus trails or harvesting our broiler chickens. The work is often challenging, but uplifted by the many hands coming together to accomplish the task. We hope that this labor, as an individual caring for a horse or as one of many picking potato bugs, fosters a sense of responsibility, feelings of pride, and perhaps a better understanding of the positive impact they can have within a community.
Through work with animals in Dexter Pasture and plants in the Children’s Garden, community begins to take on an even grander context. Campers process compost and learn that they are not the only ones assisting in the decomposition efforts. They can observe bees during a hive check and see how a very different species divides its work and responsibilities. They learn that chickens can follow behind grazing sheep to spread manure and eat fly larvae. As they see plant and animal communities working symbiotically, they also find their place within those relationships, recognizing ways in which they might contribute or, sometimes more importantly, when their role is best as simply an observer.
Below you will find some things I am doing as I think about how I can support and be supported by the people, plants, and animals around me. I hope it gives you some ideas for how your family might reflect on and contribute to your own community, large or small. Keep in touch. I’d love to hear from you.
Treetops at Home
Eat good food.
This week I made a Fund Lunch-inspired soup and homemade bread. Bread is always comforting, but the soup is a reminder of simplicity, of thinking of others, and of small ways that I can give back. I thought of the book Stone Soup as I made this, remembering how each ingredient in that book came from a different townsperson. Individually, they had very little, but when it all came together it was a hearty meal that fed the whole village. Now seems like a good time to remember the power of coming together. My soup ingredients came from the garden. Because it’s simple and versatile, you can substitute each and every ingredient for something you have at home, find at the farmers market, or that a neighbor can contribute. However it comes together, the soup will be delicious.
Make and do things.
Even though we don’t have community mornings this summer, Tess, our Garden Manager, is offering work twice a week in the garden. When I can, I go out to lend a hand and to connect with the small community that remains on campus. Tess is donating excess food from the gardens to our local food pantry. I know other campers and counselors are seeking out opportunities to do good work in their own communities. Whether it is participating in a peaceful protest against racial inequity, making masks to keep others safe, or something as simple as setting the table for a family dinner without being asked, there are plenty of ways to play a positive role in your community. I encourage you to get out (or stay in!) and do something for the good of others.
Spend time with nature.
Natural ecosystems are a perfect example of community working together. I hiked out to a waterfall to swim this week. On the walk there, I noticed how a big tree gave shelter to shade-loving ferns and how leaf litter on the ground provided protection for a little wood mouse. All around me were examples of the interconnectedness of nature. Do you have a spot where you can sit and observe plants, animals, insects, or even humans working together? What do you notice?