Mar 23, 2021

Posted by: Damian Gonzalez

Enduring… Together

TONY – “[Referring to alien invaders from space] How were you guys planning on beating that?”

CAP – “Together.”

TONY – “We’ll lose.”

CAP – “Then we’ll do that together, too.”

In my new role as the Director of Ranch Camp – much of my time has been spent parsing, reviewing, strategizing, and putting into action the plans that will keep our campers, staff, parents, and community safe. All the while, we aim to run a program that brings campers and staff back together in an unprecedented manner. With 400 campers and 400 acres of beautiful pine forests – every day inches us closer to making this dream a reality. A summer for building upon the rich history, traditions, and magic that keeps so many coming back, but also a new dawn for so many of us as we begin to take steps back to what is our new normal.

It is no secret that I’m a huge fan of all things Star Wars, Marvel, Lord of the Rings, and so on. The stories throughout the ages promote believing in the good of others, recognizing the potential within yourself, and finding courage and hope in the most unlikely of places and individuals. These consistent themes are symbols and aspirational arcs that we can connect and relate to, and in so doing, apply into our daily lives.

The past year has taken a toll on all of us. From staff to campers, teachers to students, parents, grandparents, friends, and family – every corner of our community has been affected by the challenge of this year. We face unprecedented logistical challenges that no one could have foreseen a year ago. We face choices that are more difficult and have more consequences from our actions. We are privy to a wealth of information around the globe – with many stories of triumph, but also of sadness and loss.

What has, time and time again, been proven over the past year, is that a community that supports one another and recognizes the time in which we must band together to overcome obstacles is a community that endures. Citing Daniel’s post from the previous edition of ‘In the Loup’ – getting through this year has involved a partnership between all of us. Staff, parents, youth, and their families – it is remarkable the amount of support offered to one another within our JCC community. It is also inspiring and unbelievably touching to continue to see how supportive our parents and families are of our programs at the JCC. The boundless patience, ability to pivot with us, and willingness to adjust your own lives to meet the safety needs of our programs, are qualities deserving of recognition. There have been challenges; there will continue to be more. There have been successes, with more to come. What matters most is – we will confront them, and get through them, together. I’m unbelievably excited to get down to camp this summer and create a space where our campers, staff, and in a way parents, can get close to touching that sense of normal. A feeling long lost – and something that is hopefully beginning to trickle its way back into our lives.

We must continue to recognize and be thankful for, the levels of boundless inclusion, welcoming, and friendship that permeate our organization and our programs. Our JCC is without question, the most inviting and caring community in which I have worked. For both members and staff, it is a place where all are challenged to be the best versions of themselves as they best see fit.

Unfortunately, this love for fellow humans and beautiful embracement of the value of every individual does not yet permeate our entire society. All too recently, the horrific events in Atlanta, and within the corners of our neighborhood at the Table Mesa King Soopers, have been a solemn reminder of the vulnerability of that love, and how fragile and tenuous a ground upon which it sits. It is a reminder to us, paraphrasing the words of the legendary Professor Charles Xavier, that “Those of us with power have a responsibility to protect those without.” Every one of us, big or small, no matter where we are in our lives or what we do for a living, each brings something valuable to our world. It is a reminder of the importance of our value of ‘chesed’ (kindness) at our J – we must remember that being a space for all to be welcome truly means being a space where everyone coming through our doors can feel safe being themselves, no matter how they look, sound or identify. It is a reminder to stop hate when you see it, to educate those around you on what it means to be compassionate, and those who follow in your footsteps to make the world a better place one human at a time. Only together can we build a better tomorrow for the youth who inherit our world when we leave. As we look forwards to the upcoming Pesach holiday – it is yet another significant reminder of the importance of using our power, and our stations, as fonts of goodwill, and as tools to take care of those who are vulnerable or cannot take care of themselves.

I was interviewed recently and was asked what book character (‘Lord of the Rings’) I most identify with. My answer to this will be forever, Samwise Gamgee, Frodo’s closest compatriot on their journey to destroy the One Ring. His limitless compassion and dedication to his friends, alongside his indelible belief of the potential in (almost) every being to be a force for good sets him apart from all others in the story.

“I know. It’s all wrong. By rights, we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.”

While we still have a ways to go, and many challenges to face in our journey – we’ll face them together: as a community that inspires itself, challenges itself to be the best version of itself, and cares about every human within it, recognizing everyone’s individual potential to do good. Shabbat Shalom, have a great Pesach and enjoy your gefilte fish.