Dear G.U.C.I. Staff:
Yom Sylvester Sameach (that’s “Happy New Year” in Israel). The years seem to be rolling by rather quickly here at the old campsite. Seems like one just ends and we are already into the next. I’ve been hitting the highways and byways of this great Midwest of ours, to bring the “Gospel According to G.U.C.I.“ to congregants from K.C.to Akron, from Toledo to Nashville. I’ve never really told you what I feel about all the travel we do during the winter for camp. The downside is that it’s taken me away from home a lot, and the road is long. But, there are payoffs. Of course, whenever I hit a congregation our camp is “On The Agenda” and the Goldman Union Camp Institute name is often pronounced and announced and put out there on the front burner. That’s good for camp. But sometimes the promotional trips are good for me as well.
Last week I was at a midweek school session at Temple Sholom in Cincinnati. It’s kind of going home for me as I was the Temple Sholom Youth Director and taught there for a couple of years during my HUC days. My cousin Don Splansky was the Rabbi there back then and we had spent many summers together up in Oconomowoc. Nowadays the Rabbi is Gerry Walter, who’s been there for years, and was a Jr. Counselor in my cabin (I was the Senior) in 1964 at that same camp. Gerry went on to be a Unit Head here in Zionsville. So there are lots of connections with Temple Sholom. In any event, I did my thing there and at the end of the evening a mother and her little girl came up to me. The girl was on the verge of tears. The mom told me that they had signed the daughter up for her first time at G.U.C.I. and that she was very frightened of going to camp, not knowing anyone else coming and being away from home for the first time. I looked at that beautiful little girl and held out my hand for a shake. She took it like a trooper and tried to give me a smile. Her name was Barbara. I said, “Barbara, what do you think my job is?” She told me that she didn’t really know. I told her that it was my job to take care of her at camp, and that taking care of her meant that I was going to make sure that she was safe, comfortable, and that she had fun. I told her that I had been doing my job for a long time and that I’m good at it, and that I would be at camp all the time she was there making sure that all went right.
At the end of the conversation I told her she needn’t be worried about not knowing anyone at camp next summer, that she would certainly make friends as soon as she got to camp and that she already had one good friend at camp… me. She looked at me for a moment, thinking all of this over in that bright little ten-year-old mind of hers. And then, out came a timid little smile. It grew into a bigger smile. We shook hands again, and, as her mother led her away she looked back, waved and said, “See you at camp.”
Sometimes these trips mean a lot to me. I drove home down I-74 with a glow, and you can bet that I’ll be looking for my friend Barbara next summer on opening day.