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Has America Fallen? I believe that we can all agree that in the past 3 years or so, our society has become less civil. We use more profanity in public. We are more polarized, it's We VS Them. Life has become a Win / Loose debate, never a Win / Win scenario. It seems like the fall has started. Yet, recently Senator Susan Collins has suggested a Summer Camp staple to help solve the world's ills. Yes, it is the talking stick. A simple concept, when you hold the stick you talk and others listen. Yes, listen - something America is short on these days. Sure, you can call it childish or not needed. But if we look at what Summer Camp teaches our children to become better adult, it is something all parents strive for and it all starts with a talking stick. Here are just a few of the positive attributes taught at an overnight summer camp:

Affirmation: Sometimes one simple word of affirmation can change an entire life. Recognition from outside can turn into recognition from the inside, also known as confidence.

Art: Everyone who wants to create… can. The world just needs more people who want to, and a child who is free from the pressure of competitive achievement is free to be creative.

Challenge: Encourage a child to dream big dreams. In turn, they will accomplish more than they thought possible… and probably even more than you thought possible.

Compassion/Justice: Life isn’t fair. It never will be - there are just too many variables. But when a wrong has been committed or a playing field can be leveled, we want our children to be active in helping to level it.

Contentment: The need for more material things can be contagious. Therefore, one of the greatest gifts we can give children is a genuinely content appreciation for what they have… leaving them to find out who they are.

Curiosity: Children need a safe place outside the home to ask questions about who, what, where, how, why, and why not. “Stop asking so many questions” are words that need never be heard.

Determination: One of the greatest determining factors of success is the exercise of will. Children flourish when they are given independent opportunities to learn how to find the source of determination within themselves and exercise that determination.

Discipline: Discipline is really a form of concentration learned from the ground up, in arenas that include appropriate behaviors, how to get along with others, how to get results, and how to achieve dreams. Properly encouraged, self discipline can come to be developed into a self sustaining habit.

Encouragement: Words are powerful. They can create or they can destroy. The simple words that a counselor or mentor might choose to speak, can offer encouragement and create positive thoughts for a child to build from.

Finding Beauty: Beauty surrounds us. A natural environment can inspire our children find beauty in everything they see and in everyone they meet there. Generosity: The experience of generosity is a great way for a child to learn it. Generosity is a consistent quality of heart regardless of whether the medium that reflects it is time, energy or material things.

Honesty/Integrity: Children who learn the value and importance of honesty at a young age have a far greater opportunity to become honest adults. And honest adults who deal truthfully with others tend to feel better about themselves, enjoy their lives more, and sleep better at night.

Hope: Hope means knowing that things will get better and improve and believing it. Hope is the source of strength, endurance, and resolve. And in the desperately difficult times of life, it calls us to press onward.

Imagination: If we’ve learned anything in recent years, it’s that life is changing faster and faster with every passing day. The world of tomorrow will look nothing like the world today. And the people with imagination are the ones not just living it, they are creating it.

Intentionality: This word means the habit of pausing to find the intent behind each of the ongoing choices that comprise our lives. It is the moment of reflection toward one’s own source: slow down, consider who you are, your environment, where you are going and how to get there.

Lifelong Learning: A passion for learning is different from just studying to earn a grade or please teachers. It begins in the home and school but can be splendidly expanded at summer camp. A camper has fun being safely exposed, asking questions, analyzing the answers that expose more and having more fun doing it all again. In other words, learn to love learning itself.

Meals Together: Meals together provide an unparalleled opportunity for relationships to grow, the likes of which can not be found anywhere else. Nature: Children who learn to appreciate the world around them take care of the world around them.

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