Blog  Camp & Courage By Katy Shapiro

Camp & Courage By Katy Shapiro

Grateful for Being Whole-Hearted, Vulnerable and Finding Self-Love – at GUCI

“But what if it’s not good enough?”, I asked myself 2 minutes before our last board meeting. As chair of the GUCI Board of Advisors, it is a goal to ensure there is a short bit of Jewish learning at each meeting to remind us of why we do the work we do for camp. Prior to our recent meeting, I had asked a couple of our many clergy and knowledgeable lay-leaders to prepare a D’var Torah, but both were unable for that meeting. I felt time was running too short to ask another of our clergy to do this task, but it was valuable to me, so I worked in true camp style (last minute) to put something together.

I had been doing lots of personal reflecting in the past few months, including reading some of Brene Brown’s works, including, The Gifts of Imperfection. In thinking about the D’var Torah I wanted to share, I was certain there must be Jewish teachings about some of the themes of this book including vulnerability, courage, self-compassion and love. The work-day threw some unexpected kinks in my plan to draft a well-researched and thought-out D’var for the meeting that night. Twenty minutes before the meeting, on my drive from work, I called my dad to ask if he could think of a text I could include. I contemplated scrapping it and apologizing to the board for a lack of a D’var. With 15 minutes to go, my dad called back with two bits of text from Rabbi Telushkin’s The Book of Jewish Values that helped connect the dots I was looking for. My D’var wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done. I found courage to do a disjointed presentation of my thoughts, when the easier way out would have been to just forget about it and move on.

Following the meeting, one of our board members, camp alumnus Rabbi Sissy Coran at Rockdale Temple sent me one of her sermons from this past High Holiday season.  She too connected with Brene Brown’s work and focused on vulnerability in her sermon. As I read her thoughtful words, something I have been thinking about solidified and clicked in my brain and heart.

How on earth could I have the courage to do a D’var Torah, on the fly, in front of respected friends, peers and clergy?  BECAUSE OF CAMP!!!  So many times in my life, I have felt not quite good enough. This has shown up for me as a friend, as a student, as a colleague, as a partner, and as a parent.

But at camp, I was afforded the greatest gift: a safe place to learn to take safe risks and to be wrapped in support to dare greatly. A place where this 3rd grader had courage to get up on a stage and sing “Downtown” with a puny little voice and freckled face while cabin-mates and counselors cheered me on. A place where this high-schooler could challenge ideas about what God means to me without fear of backlash. A place where my campers liked, and forgave me, despite having made a questionable judgment call as a first-year counselor (no one was injured). A place where I could teach things I had just learned myself. A place for first love and heartbreak and finding humility to see the good in what was lost.  A place where a fairly introverted 20-something could stand in front of 300 people and give the hodaot (announcements – don’t sing it), despite fears of not being funny enough. A place where a tree grows because of the love and support of a community after the loss of a loved one. A place where I could sit amongst peers, friends and clergy and fumble through a D’var Torah with the courage to not allow a lack of perfection to be the enemy of the good.

I was not perfect at camp, and have been an imperfect Board Chair, but GUCI was and still is, the place where, despite my imperfections, I am loved, valued and learned to love myself. If only all of the world was more like camp, we could find the courage to be ourselves and learn to love ourselves and each other whole-heartedly.

Psalm 15:1-2 –A song of David; O God, who will sojourn in Your tent, who will dwell upon Your holy mount? He/She/They that walk uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his/her/their heart;

“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.”  – Brene Brown