Flying Cloud is, first and foremost, a community. Sure, we’re a community in a beautiful place, with longstanding traditions and practices, deeply held values, special ways of living, and lots of style, but the heart of Flying Cloud is the people who make it up: Flying Clouders past and present.

As a camper at Flying Cloud I was asked to speak at our opening Friendship Fire ceremony, a longstanding tradition held the first night of every session:

What did I hope to get out of the summer?

What did I want to leave at home?

What would I bring to camp?

I can’t remember what I said, but what I do remember is that people cared about what I had to say, and by extension, me. Everyone else spoke too, campers and counselors alike. That was the beginning of our community that summer, founded on hope, understanding, and good intent. We grew together each day in different ways after that. There were big get-togethers where we talked about how we wanted Flying Cloud to look like.  We created the “in and out list” where everyone was afforded the opportunity to speak on what values they thought should be present (in) or absent (out) from our summer community.  Flying Cloud still functions this way, creating our community with intention every summer.

As important as those big, very intentional meetings are, the little day-to-day moments mean just as much. Sitting in silence, listening to birdsong and the wind in the trees, allowing the space for anyone to speak who felt so inclined. Talking about our days and falling asleep around a glowing fire in the lodge at night. Thanksgivings punctuating the silence of a morning circle. Flying Cloud is the people who make it, and that feels like a rare opportunity in today’s world.

So where does leadership fit into a place like this? To paint with a broad brush, this sort of very open, communal living is antithetical to a traditional idea of leadership – being the loudest voice in the proverbial room, calling all the shots, choosing what’s best for everybody. Recognizing that the beauty of Flying Cloud lies in everyone who makes it up, we hold decision-making processes that will affect the community as a public forum, where the goal of the leader is to ensure that there’s a place for everybody. I’m sure it didn’t feel like it from the outside, but I’d guess that we easily spent hundreds of hours in communal conversation about the Naming Ceremony in the years preceding the decision to alter it. Moderating and facilitating a big conversation is an important skill and one we offer young people the chance to develop in their time at Flying Cloud.

However, not all decisions should be made communally. Building a stone oven? Probably not going to be terribly productive to hold a forum before placing every rock! In these instances, there’s usually one person with a vision and the expertise to carry it out helping to guide a group towards the completion of a task. I recall being particularly into building my sleeping space up nicely, and before long, everyone came to see my bunk and ask for help and guidance in creating their own. At Flying Cloud, we recognize the importance of making space for everyone to have the chance to shine like this. Are you a camper with a skill you’re really passionate about? Collaborate with a counselor and lead it as an activity! Have a meal you love and want to make for the whole camp? Guide your lodge to cook crew glory! There’s nothing wrong with being great at something and sharing that with others. It’s just important to remember that there are lots of different ways to be great and to celebrate greatness as it exists in everybody.

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