“Friendship… is not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”
I spent last week with nearly 40 kids age 8 – 18 in a summer camp near Shanghai in China. What a trip! The theme of the camp was It’s OK Being Me, and that’s what we focused on through a mixture of games, films, creative ‘making’ of masks and picture autobiographies, role-play, drama, presentations and sharing.
As we know, the bedrock of how we see others is a reflection of how we see ourselves, so for the last few days we widened the theme to incorporate And It’s OK Being You.
Kids in China work incredibly hard. They can spend up to 12 hours a day in school and face huge parental pressure to do extra study and homework because of increasing competition for higher education and jobs. Time spent playing or having fun with other kids is strictly rationed. Maybe that’s why it was so touching to see how the friendships and caring blossomed in the group.
Through all the greeting and getting to know each other, the heat and exhaustion, the excitement and tears, the fights and making up, the fears and the challenges, what shone out by the end was how much we enjoyed and valued the feeling of friendship. In the final sharing it was Angel who captured it for everyone: “I have learned that grades aren’t everything, that it is possible to have fun and express myself and I will never forget all of you.”
I’m so grateful for this reminder of how much we gain from allowing friendship and fun to flourish in our lives. Bring on the summer holidays!