Summer Choices - S.U.V. –v- C.R.V.

“Children without childhood are a dark and fearsome spectacle”. (Mendele Mokher Sefarim – Yiddish writer 1836-1917). This quote brings me to the following observation:

School is out. Summer is approaching, vacations begin, and children are a handful. The beach is free, parks, museums, amusement parks, and alternative entertainment choices are available but they all lack moral guidance and supervision. Our greatest assets are children and we need to make the right choices for them. Recent surveys report that child violence and delinquency has risen, family dynamics are stressful. It is being recommended that families spend more time together by taking vacations but, strangely enough, vacations may cause more harm than good.   

With that in mind, I remembered my childhood and studying the Declaration of Independence’s Statement of Basic Rights. In it we are given the message of pursing happiness by our founding fathers, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” I find this to be wishful thinking. Remember, as Americans we are only guaranteed the pursuit of happiness but not the attainment.

So I looked at the vacation industry for examples. I found an answer to happiness as portrayed by the auto industry advertisements. The theme usually portrays a family, or couple, in need of a vacation, hopping into a S.U.V. - sports utility vehicle and driving off to the sun and yonder. For some reason we are made to believe that bliss is to follow, that when the family comes home they will rested, rejuvenated, and full of harmony. But that may not be true at all. Many of us know a trip in a S.U.V. can be quite harrowing. When leaving on vacation everything is taken into the S.U.V.. Televisions, computers, and Ipods are taken to make the trip comfortable. Ironically, instead of getting away from your home environment you take the home with you. 

I have been thinking about an alternative. This summer I suggest instead of escaping in your S.U.V. try a C.R.V., meaning a Camp Retreat and Vacation. Let me state my case.

We are all in agreement that children need stimulation in a safe and healthy environment. We need a place where children can feel free to run about, learn how to interact between friends and peers. Where can that be?

What common denominator can bring children of all walks of life, wealthy or poor, strong or weak, educated and non-educated, observant and non-observant together? 

The answer is a religious summer camp. There the golden rule, love thy neighbor as yourself, is practiced by staff and supervisors. Together children learn to shed their inhibitions and share their feelings. Sports are taught and their little minds are stimulated as muscles are flexed. Children learn that competition is not a scary thing and challenges bring out the best. Sameness is stressed and divisiveness is frowned upon. Joy and camaraderie is the true ingredient for a wholesome child and we find it in camp. Songs are taught, values are met, and character traits are built. Imagine having a laboratory for goodness 24/7. What more can a parent ask for?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, stated many times in his public talks that what children learn in camps, when supervised by G‑d fearing and fun-loving staff, are lessons for life that cannot be replicated. Even when sports are played under proper supervision it is a mitzvah; as a strong healthy body is the way of Hashem.  What needed to be taught at the home is now transferred to the summer vacation camps.

A Torah true camp enhances children’s self esteem, guarantees spiritual and physical growth in a most positive and inspirational fashion. 

As parents we are given the opportunity to offer our prized assets a good start in life. A vacation doesn’t have to be an ordeal, stuffed into a S.U.V., and traveling from place to place. A vacation should be in a place of fun playing and learning. And a camp experience is the place.

According to Dr. Maria Montessori (1870-1952), Italian educator, philosopher, and founder of the Montessori program, “Play is child’s work” meaning that when children play, they learn values in a constructive fashion. Nothing can be better than playing baseball, volleyball or arts and crafts with a Jewish spirit of song and togetherness.

So this summer instead of jumping into your S.U.V. adopt a C.R.V. program. You will be glad you did.