By Ed Haubenreiser
I am writing this from the funny position of having celebrated Thanksgiving with extended family this past weekend, before most folks’ usual Thanksgiving festivities take place at the end of this week. Although it feels strange to have already undergone the expected experiences (catching up, cooking and eating, unique family traditions), I am lucky to be filled with gratitude a week in advance – it is from this position, and these feelings, that I am compelled to share and (hopefully) provide some similar sense.
Our immediate family swaps visiting our extended family each year: last year we visited Dad’s side, so this year we visited Mom’s side, at her family’s farm in Missouri. I flew from Asheville to St Louis and Dad picked me up from the airport, after having driven down the day before. He brought me up to speed with all who was there, culminating in a suggestion to prepare for my nephews, Rhys and Connell, who are twin five year-old brothers. Given that they will be the youngest humans by nearly 25 years, everyone was mentally readying themselves for the vast “energy gap” between the two of them and the eight of us adults – I guess they had grown a bit since their sweet and calm three year-old selves two years ago. I did not say it out loud, but my very honest thought was, “I work with young people, of all ages, for a living. I have worked with young people for a number of years. I think I got this, Dad.”
(Brief pause from writing to look up “hubris”)
Indeed, Rhys and Connell were as sweet as twin five year-old brothers could be, but the positive feedback loop that exists between two small boys with near identical genes is comparable to a stampede. If one yells, the other yells louder, then the other yells even louder; if one starts running, the other runs faster, then the other one runs even faster; if one discovers a unique sound between two objects, the other discovers an even more unique sound with two different objects – and so on and so on. When you add Rhys and Connell with eight full grown adults and four large dogs, all inside a small house, it creates quite a hectic environment (even for the overconfident educator).
The previous lists, however, are not the examples the eight adults are bringing with them from the weekend. At the forefront of my mind are the twin-boy-positive-feedback-loops of one wanting to construct a snowman out of recycled boxes and the other coming up with the plan of what colors to paint it; of one wanting to go outside and the other looking for their magnifying glasses; of one’s marveling of the stars and the other grabbing the telescope; of one’s vocal interest in George Washington and the other staging a play re-enactment of the Revolutionary War. It was always one with an idea, the other with a way to make it happen, and off the two go. It was these examples that made the eight adults laugh and cry, that made the four dogs boundlessly happy, and made memories that we will tell all too often as the boys get older.
It was all of these moments, the fun ones and even the hectic ones, that made my uncle – their grandfather – say, “How can you not have hope for the future when you watch those two boys go.”
I carried that sentiment on my travels home and sparked an important reflection. I consider myself a positive and happy individual, and I would consider the other folks on our campus – Camp staff, OA staff, Foundation staff – also positive and happy individuals. It is my belief that the common denominator we all share, that allows us to be happy and positive individuals, are the young people we are so lucky to engage with year-round. We are privileged to work within the world of becoming: to be a part of the moments that show the growth of children and young adults through new experiences, that thereby instills a sense of hope within us and makes our world brighter with each day. I share this because I am sure other educators and parents can relate.
With that said: what is not lost on us, most importantly, are the people who make this “hope for the future” possible.
While Rhys and Connell embodied excited spirits similar to that of Calvin and Hobbes, I watched their parents – Nate and Alison – frequently, but gracefully, work to keep the twins’ trains on their tracks. There was a tangible collective joy amongst our family this Thanksgiving for a variety of reasons, and a significant one was because Nate and Alison were always ready with a snack, a book, an art project – you name it – to ensure Rhys and Connell were the best versions of themselves, or grow into that best version through some new experience. Rhys and Connell as the most themselves, and Nate and Alison’s immense capacity to care, was contagious and meaningful to each of us in the family, and a take away well worth attempting to emulate moving forward.
We on this campus consistently witness this example from our ENF families and friends, who are equally caring and trusting. We see it in the students/campers/counselors/alumni as they pass through or visit our programs, we see at our Camp/OA opening and closing days, we see at our Camp/OA/Foundation events, and we see it in the way folks so generously give throughout the year. The lasting impact of the intentional community created by Camp, OA, and our Foundation are these feelings of joy and hope for the future, but the only reason that is possible is because of the families who instill those characteristics in the first place, and then thoughtfully share their love with us as their children participate and lead all that we do here.
We strive to be our best selves because we see it in the people we work with, and its clear those people adopt it from the places they come from. Of course there will always be times that it feels like a stampede is imminent (as my Mom took joy in pointing out about my five year-old self), but thus is the beauty of the job and life – the imperfections that create the much needed diversity in the world. “For how can one know color in a perpetual state of green” as Steinbeck once wrote.
So, a friendly thank you to all of you – students, campers, families, friends, alumni – for the love you give and the hope you light the world with. We hope your gatherings this week, and beyond, create the memories and belonging you empower us to do here on Hart Road.