I have long considered the first few weeks of the New Year to be “The Season of Hope”. Like the turning of a day, week or month, a new year seems to bring with it an open page where anything is possible. Many folks use this time to kick start a new, usually more positive, way of being in the world. I think about this as a time of hope, rather than a time for making resolutions because hope, as clinical psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison writes “is the thing that drives us forward, that inspires us to keep going, even when the odds are against us”. Hope gives us confidence, helps us face challenges, and carries us on the path to achieving our dreams.
At Eagle’s Nest, hope is one of the seven character strengths we engender. Children who are hopeful have a positive outlook on life which can contribute to their overall happiness, social skills and interactions, and on building strong relationships. They tend to be more resilient when faced with adversity and can more quickly rebound from setbacks and challenges. This tool for managing difficult situations, helps children navigate challenges that they will face in their life. Hopeful children are more likely to persevere in the face of adversity. They are also more likely to set goals and pursue dreams. They feel more confident and secure in submitting to curiosity and wonder, which can lead to a lifetime of growth and fulfillment. Don’t we all want these things for ourselves and our children?
There are myriad ways that we can ignite and support hope at Eagle’s Nest Camp. Campers are able to participate in new activities, adventures and also challenges. We help them get excited about these new experiences, and set goals to learn new skills in their activities. Our skill building program allows campers to set goals and see their progress, whether it’s learning to throw a balanced pot on the pottery wheel, hit the bull’s eye in archery, or paddle down a challenging river. Even facing homesickness, with support and a plan, can build hope. Achieving positive results instills hope in children.
The inclusive community that we create at Eagle’s Nest helps children feel a strong sense of belonging. Each camper is a member of many different communities at camp: their cabin community, their table family, their Kindred…being part of each of these communities, and having a connection to others, help contribute to our campers positive and optimistic outlook. In cabins, campers work together towards common goals; getting enough “A” grades on cabin clean-up so they can get ice cream is probably one of the more popular of these goals. These opportunities for teamwork promote mutual hopefulness.
Outdoor activities and opportunities to experience “awe” in nature also leave us with a feeling of hope for the world. Getting up early to see the sunrise over the mountains or seeing a rainbow after the rain often leave us with a hopeful feeling that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.
When I read about and consider the importance of hope in our lives, I’m particularly struck by the following from Dr. Barbara L. Fredrickson, a researcher in the field of Positive Psychology:
“Hope broadens people’s sense of what is possible and promotes the development of multiple strategies for reaching goals. This increased cognitive flexibility can lead to greater creativity, resilience, and well-being.”
Eagle’s Nest Camp is many things to many people – a break from technology, a chance to play in creeks, explore the woods, dance and laugh with friends, and just have fun! For me, it’s all of these things, and so much more – including an opportunity for us all to feel a spark hope in our lives.