Posted on January 14, 2018 by Sarah Friedman
So I’d like to start off by saying that I’ve never actually written a blog post before. Like, ever. So I hope I’m doing it right. But I guess I’ll find out. For those of you who don’t know, I spent these past four weeks at URJ Kutz camp in Warwick, NY. Here I’ve spent my days doing everything from exploring my skills as a leader to self-defense to even learning how political activism ties into late night TV. My time here has been unforgettable and I’m taking advantage of every moment I have while I’m still here.
I’d been at Kutz for quite some time now, since I was here for Mechina as well. As the Membership Vice President of NFTY-GER, I spent five days within the Membership Network exploring and inviting in different leadership skills to bring back to my region. Through the two hour blocks of network time and friendships made, I valued my time at Mechina very much and was sad to see it end. But all good things come to an end, and I was glad to finally get to begin camp, which I had been looking forward to for months. My first Jewish summer camp! My childhood dreams were coming true and I was finally getting to have that summer camp experience that all my Jewish friends had talked about. I was ready, everything was just as I imagined it to be. Everywhere you turned you were greeted by staff saying “Welcome Home!”, my cabin even had a theme (caterpillars! So cute, right?) and I immediately clicked with my RA’s and cabin mates, some of whom I had even met already. But there was only one small issue, and that was that I had lost my voice. I couldn’t speak loudly at all. I didn’t want my first impression with new people to be my hoarse voice. But that wasn’t even the worst part. I couldn’t sing.
Every day here at camp we have services, sometimes in the morning, sometimes at night, depending on the day. I love to sing at services; it gives me the feeling of being intertwined with not only my religion and with God but with the others around me. So services were definitely hardest for me. However, on the second day of camp we had an evening service. The sun was setting on the lake, the sky was an array of orange and pink and just altogether beautiful. The song leaders began to sing this wonderful melody to the song “Sellah”, and since I couldn’t sing I just sat and listened. Something I really didn’t do often, since usually I’m the one who’s rambling on about something. I hated not being able to sing. I felt hopeless, useless, weak. But in that moment I didn’t care. The harmonies of the song had moved me and all thought and worry about the summer had drained from within me. The voices of those around me collected as one and I was lost in an ocean of music and all I wanted was for it to continue forever.With my hands intertwined with my two friends beside me, I shut my eyes and just swayed. I had found a new way to connect with God. I didn’t realize that sometimes just listening could be as engaging as the activity itself. Tears clouded my eyes and began to stream down the side of my face; the music was just so beautiful that I couldn’t help but cry. I let go, and surprisingly didn’t feel weak anymore. I opened my eyes to see the sky reflecting off Lake Rolyn, the blue melting into pink, the pink dissolving into orange. A swan flew across the water, completing the moment perfectly. In that moment, I knew Kutz was where I belonged. It’s where I wanted to be, and I was undeniably content. This was one of those moments that you can’t forget. And that’s coming from someone who forgets things very easily. Kutz was just what I needed, and I didn’t want to be anywhere else.
There was nothing for me to think in that moment besides how beautiful life was, how much I should value it more and put the damn phone down and just observe. I learned that sometimes it’s good to take a step back and really look at things from new perspectives. The outcome can really shock you, just like how it shocked me.
So I challenge you, reader. Look at things with a new perspective. Whether it be taking a step back and appreciating the little things or something as simple as just listening to services instead of partaking in them. And when you achieve that moment just like I did, when you realize that life is just so incredibly beautiful and pure, you’ll find serenity. I challenge you to just pause and appreciate what you have and what’s in front of you. Life is precious, and also fragile. One wrong move and a piece of it is broken forever. A piece that can’t be fixed and will never be the same as it used to be. Be careful with what you have, appreciate it, and don’t let things like school or cell phones control you. You’re your own person, this is your life. It’s all ahead of you, the future is in your hands. What are you going to do with it?
Originally published July 14, 2017 by URJ Kutz Camp Blog. Reprinted with permission.
Re-published in the January-February 2018 issue of the Shofar. For more issues of the Shofar, visit the Shofar archives.