It is hard to believe that as we reach our first Shabbat here in Seattle, our community has been together for less than a week. In just five days, we have moved from the classic awkward airport icebreakers to powerful discussions about socio-economic privilege. We’ve learned about each other and grown together, and most of all, we’ve learned about ourselves as we come to the end of our first week running the International Rescue Committee summer camp for local refugee children.
Seeing our teens give everything that they have to the campers has been a true blessing to be a part of. With 37 teens and 25 campers, our group has come together through the endless love and energy that they’ve channeled into their work with the campers every day. In just three days of camp, our participants have learned to read each other on the fly, understand each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and needs, and support each other every step of the way. We’ve seen leadership happen in every form and the connections that happen when each of those forms are honored and respected for their uniqueness. It is in the honoring of these different forms of leadership that we can see the connection to our week’s Torah portion.
In this week’s portion, Joshua is designated as Moses’ successor, not because his leadership is similar to that of Moses, but because he has the skills needed to lead the Israelites for who and where they are in that moment. Our campers at the IRC are coming from backgrounds that we can’t even begin to fathom. There’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” type of counselor style when working with these children, and our teens learned that within minutes of their first day at camp. While we spent a few days preparing our teens with tools to use in order to be good counselors, it is their own instincts and ability to respond uniquely to the minute-to-minute needs of their campers that has proven each and every one of them to be leaders in their own way. Their constant ability to respond, strategize, support, and celebrate has given the campers more than just counselors; it has truly given each child a role model. We could not be more proud of our teens for the leaders that they are every moment both in and out of the camp.
As we head into Shabbat, we are ready for a break, a chance to step back and celebrate the work we’ve done together so far. We are grateful for the much needed time to recharge as we prepare for another amazing week of leading, learning, and growing together. Shabbat Shalom!
Noah, Heather, Elliot, and Tamar
Mitzvah Corps Pacific Northwest 2016 Staff Team