I learned today that the phrase “through thick and thin” is one of the older expressions in the English language. Maybe it’s because people have always looked for a way to define struggles, as well as good times. I’ve used the phrase plenty, but have never thought about an institution–like camp–being thick or thin until today when I read a column by David Brooks about “thick Institutions” and the impressions they have on us as he recounted his work at summer camp.
He argues in his op-ed that thick institutions leave a mark on people, while thin ones “pass through you with scarcely a memory.” Some of the characteristics of a thick institution, Brooks says, include memorable physical locations, a set of collective rituals, shared tasks, a sacred history, music as a part of daily life. Sounds a lot like Camp Mishawaka.
For years I have tried to convey to staff that at Camp it is not an either/or proposition. It’s not a question of who benefits from the kindness of a staff member- everyone does. It’s not a zero-sum game: service to others and to one’s self are not mutually exclusive. As Brooks puts it, “in a thick organization, selfishness and selflessness marry. It fulfills your purpose to help others have a good day.”
So, have a great day and find a way to help another human do the same. You just might find that you are back at Camp, even for just a moment.
Steve Purdum, Executive Director