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Monday, November 1, 1999

All My Memories Gather 'Round Me

                                                                                                                   November, 1999


Dear G.U.C.I. Staff:


"As far back as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a Camp Director..."  (adapted from the first line of the movie, "Goodfellas."  [Thanks, Jer].  Well, at least as far back as the summer of 1969.  I’d just finished college and almost convinced myself that that was to be my last summer in camp.  But 1969 is long enough ago to qualify for "As far back as I can remember."  Once I did realize where I was going with this camp thing, it took me six years to actually move into a Director's office (this, of course, does not count the times I snuck into the Director's office in Oconomowoc to sleep on his carpet in the air conditioning).  I was reminded of all this last summer when our Goldman Union Camp Institute Staff and Avodahnikim gave me a gift worth remembering...they gave me an Oneg Shabbat.  It was to honor my 25 years as Director here in Zionsville.  How they kept it a secret from me, I'll never know (come to think of it, it must have been pretty easy to keep it a secret from me).  I was completely surprised.  As a matter of fact, I was really knocked out that week as it had been in the high 90's and even 100 degrees for days, and I was going to skip the Oneg and go to bed.  It was that crafty Frank DeWoskin, our Program Director who said to me, "Come on.  Let's just go see what's up with the Oneg."  Yes.  He's the one who got me there.  Like leading a lamb to the slaughter.

Well, I was caught off guard (I guess that rooster got into my yard...), and completely touched by the thought and sentiment expressed that night (the food was good too).  My staff gave me a collage of pictures of our camp centered on a beautiful aerial shot, with a caption at the bottom that reads, "All my memories gather 'round me."  And bless those Avodahnikim if they didn't give me a genuine Cubs jersey with "Klotz 25" printed on the back.  Eat your heart out Sammy Sosa.  What a great way to commemorate an important personal milestone!

Did I tell you that just earlier that evening I met my Midurah buddy at the Shabbat campfire, as I did every Friday evening during Kallah Bet this summer?  He's a Shoresh boy who I happened to sit next to at the first campfire of the session, and while I was thinking about whatever story I was about to tell, noticed that he wasn't singing.  I leaned over and asked him if everything was all right.  He replied with one of the most beautiful sentiments I had ever heard.  He said, "Look at all of the faces around the campfire...and look at the sparks and the stars.  Everyone is so happy.  It’s just so beautiful.  I want to take it all in.  I want to remember this moment."  

I've thought about what that eleven-year-old boy said to me that night.  I've thought about it a lot.  He was appreciating a blessing, recognizing it for what it was, a rare gift.  He was savoring it, storing it, putting it away with his treasures.  I think in his own way, my campfire buddy was saying the most sincere prayer of thanksgiving that one could offer.  His wisdom reminded me to appreciate the blessings that are all around us.  We met each week there after, without invitation or arrangement, in the same spot at the Midurah.  We sang together.  He liked my stories.  I looked for him each Friday night.  We both liked “Campfireing” together. 

So, when I stood there in front of the staff and Avodah, during that Oneg, I followed my teacher’s advice.  I looked at all the faces.  I appreciated how happy we all were.  I gave my thanks for the blessings of camp and community, for being given the opportunity to work with so many wonderful people over the years.  And, I thought back to those days when I was just beginning to follow this path.  All my memories gathered ‘round me.
I’m looking forward to next summer’s campfires already.

Ron

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