It seems like a study comes out every week about the importance of gratitude. Everyone agrees that cultivating a practice of giving thanks improves mental and emotional well-being. But I think there is more to it than that. Sharing gratitude in community, as we do at camp, can be a richer experience than simply writing it in a journal or thinking it silently. Standing in morning circle at Red Spruce Grove, we share daily appreciations for the natural world right after waking up. It’s clear that our thanks feed off one another, becoming a flurry of gratitude as each person reflects on what was said and adds their own appreciation to the mix. We remind each other what to be thankful for. How could we remember it all by ourselves? When we offer our thanks to the fog, the birds, the trees, and the insects, we remember that we are connected to them in a web of relationships.

Evening circle at Red Spruce Grove frames the day with a second round of gratitude: appreciations for one another. Especially towards the end of our time together, this circle sometimes seems to go on and on into the night, even as the stars appear and the light fades from the meadow. Speaking thanks to one another knits our community together. We do this again at the end of the session, in the more intentional setting of our Affirmation Circle.

One of my favorite things about Farm and Wilderness is that every camp does a form of affirmations for each person – camper and staff – at some point during each session. Each camp puts their own spin on these, from the Flying Cloud Honoring traditions to the heartfelt staff-to-camper affirmations read aloud at Indian Brook. At Red Spruce Grove, we share affirmations for one another once we return from our wilderness site. Each person writes and speaks words of thanks to another, chosen randomly, and gives them a “token”, which ranges from a simple bouquet of flowers or a feather to a handmade craft. These affirmation circles are often the sweetest moments of the session.

It’s a goal of mine to be able to fill my days with the amount of gratitude I speak, hear, and feel at Red Spruce Grove. During this inward-turning time of year, I hope we can remember to bring this spirit of thankfulness to everything we do, and to our communities beyond camp. Sharing thanks ties us to each other and to the world.

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