By Rachel Steinberg
I’m thankful for people who are understanding.
I’m thankful for a house to live in and a pillow to rest my head on.
I’m thankful for really close friends that love and support me.
I’m thankful to be myself and not someone else.
I’m thankful that my parents sent me to camp.
I found these inspiring words posted on the “Gratitude Wall’ in the New Beit. Like you, I am truly grateful for the many blessings in my life. I’m thankful for my family who provides me with unconditional love. I’m thankful for the professional and personal support that I receive from colleagues and friends. I’m thankful for the opportunity to make a difference in the world.
There’s a legend of a young man who, while roaming the desert, came across a spring of delicious crystal-clear water. The water was so sweet he filled his leather canteen so he could bring some back to a tribal elder who had been his teacher.
After a four-day journey he presented the water to the old man who took a deep drink, smiled warmly and thanked his student lavishly for the sweet water. The young man returned to his village with a happy heart.
Later, the teacher let another student taste the water. He spat it out, saying it was awful. It apparently had become stale because of the old leather container.
The student challenged his teacher: “Master, the water was foul. Why did you pretend to like it?”
The teacher replied, “You only tasted the water. I tasted the gift. The water was simply the container for an act of loving-kindness and nothing could be sweeter.”
Like in this week’s Torah portion, Eikev, where Moses instructs the Israelites to be grateful for all the blessings in their lives, the teacher instills the importance of gratitude in his student; to show appreciation and express thanks because of the thoughtfulness of the gift.
There is tremendous power in gratitude. And, although gratitude doesn’t always come naturally, it is an incredibly important part of living a healthy and fulfilling life. In fact, there is an abundance of research that suggests that gratitude is beneficial to our bodies and minds. People who are regularly grateful are generally happier and healthier.
In the hustle and bustle of life in the “real world,” it is likely that we have many moments of gratitude, but they may often go unnoticed or unacknowledged as we quickly move from one thing to another. Yet, here at camp we not only have the time – but create the opportunities – to be intentional about not only showing gratitude, but feeling grateful each and every day.
The first words we say each morning – Modeh Ani – I thank you – mean that we begin each day by giving thanks. Throughout the day we show gratitude by saying thank you for the food we eat, respecting the differences in those around us, writing letters to loved ones, writing our own prayers, and so much more. Being grateful and expressing what we are thankful for makes the ordinary, extraordinary; the boring, exciting; and the mundane, inspiring.
Camp Harlam is a place where we can be our best and true selves. Use the time that you have here to appreciate the little things and to be inspired by the big things. Count your blessings. Care deeply. Live fully. Be grateful.
Rachael Steinberg is one of the Assistant Directors of Camp Harlam. It is her sixth summer at Camp Harlam. Rachel lies in Maple Glen, PA with her husband Matt and their two children, Harrison and Liv.