Original posted on the Kutz Camp Blog
I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude recently, and the place it exists within my life. For instance, despite what various yoga instructors tell me, I do not find overwhelming gratitude at rising every morning, and I don’t generally feel a ton of gratitude for being able to draw each new breath (unless I’ve recently been punched in the stomach). The overwhelmingly mundane nature of the acts generally prevents me from feeling the passionate gratitude that such a monumental triumph of nature and spirit demands. Does that make me a bad person?
I don’t think it does. Being grateful for a chocolate cake does not preclude my gratitude for the flour that goes into it; it is simply built in to being grateful for the cake. In a similar way, I think that when I’m grateful for my friends, my family, my community, there is a foot note attached that says “and my mouth for breathing and being able to talk and my feet for walking, and my…” and so on. I simply don’t say it because if I had to list out every ingredient that goes into making my life awesome I’d never have time to do any of the awesome things that comprise my life.
Which brings me to this: I am grateful for every single second in my Jewish camp experience. I feel a profound sense of gratitude for every aspect, routine to sacred. And as opposed to most things, saying that doesn’t begin to feel like nearly enough to describe the life-shaping role that Jewish summer camp played for me.
When I was 16, I had to write a speech for my confirmation ceremony outlining what I was confirming. Being the rebellious teenager that I was, I attempted to write a speech describing how very not Jewish my life was. Quickly, the failure of that idea became apparent; I couldn’t think of a single aspect of my life that wasn’t touched by Judaism. My camp friends were Jewish, my best friend, a Hebrew school acquaintance, was as well. I attended temple 4 times a week while being a assistant Hebrew school teacher and going to youth group. Judaism had woven itself into my life without me noticing.
All of that began with camp. I grew up at a JCC camp, and then was encouraged by my youth group friends to attend Kutz, and from there, having been introduced to the amazing world of NFTY camping, I moved to Crane Lake Camp, where I worked on staff for the past six summers.
I recently accepted a new job, one that will allow me to work to support Kutz all year, one that will allow me to spend my summers attending summer camp for the considerable future. And so I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude. Gratitude to those that hired me, obviously, allowing me to do a job that I’ve dreamed of for years, but moreover gratitude to the countless counselors, unit heads, specialists, bunkmates, and friends that have built me into the person that I am. Camp made me into the person that I am, and I am grateful for that.
Eli Cohn-Wein is the NFTY/Kutz Program Associate.