April 5, 2015
“Memoirs and Visions”
The Summer of 2014
This was the first summer in about 30 years that I did not work at some type of children’s camp program. I considered this summer my sabbatical. It was time to think about the future of Camp Earth Connection, and the direction I would take with both my business and with my own personal journey. In August I headed out west with my two sons and my nephew exploring along the way. A favorite place for all of us, was the Great Sand Dunes National Park in San Luis Valley. Dessert like hills of sand meet rocky mountains with hidden falls of icy cold water.
Although I never attended camp as a child, at fourteen I began my long standing career with camps as a pot scrubber at a small camp up the road from my house in Cuddebackville, New York. A couple summers later, working as a “stablehand” I fell in love with “camp life” at a residential girl scout camp. I entered college and studied animal science to pursue my goal of becoming a veterinarian, but each summer I couldn’t wait to return to a summer camp, where new experiences and new friendships awaited me. I knew this was where my heart was leading me.
Along with camping, horses and my love of the outdoors, I had other callings. I witnessed inequities amongst people, in ways that I now know are the many faces of oppression: Racism, Sexism, Homophobia, Classism, etc. I questioned and talked with people who both were being judgmental and discriminatory and those who were being mistreated. I didn’t understand why so many people seemed not to notice or care. I never felt I had a choice to not care. I just wanted to understand why these inequities existed.
Recently at an interview I was asked “How would you end Racism?” What a big question. The first thought that came into my head was – Capitalism doesn’t work, or my understanding of Capitalism anyways. As long as folks believe success (and happiness) is connected to material gain, and as long as we live with the feeling of scarcity and not enough, we will probably keep pursuing more. How much more is there? And what if more means other people get less? What if more means that some people don’t get there basic needs met?
As I explore a new title in my life, as a “social entrepreneur” I have attempted to define what a social entrepreneur actually is. I believe it may be someone like myself whose artistic creativity comes from designing and building a socially conscious business. Someone who loves to create something that can make the world a better place. But to be an entrepreneur means, I need to be self-supporting as I do not receive a paycheck. How can I do this in a socially conscience way?
I took the local credit union’s business classes this Fall. I signed up to become a part of the Chamber of Commerce and I am showing up at networking events and workshops. I learn things like marketing techniques, how to reach clients, and how to run a business. I learn how to focus on where the money comes from; who the ideal clients are, etc. I learn about “bait and hook.” Though no one calls it that. It is called good business sense, or marketing. I am told don’t worry about those who can’t afford your program, once you make money then you can reach “those people.” I am commended when I talk about wanting to run an alcohol and drug free business; and wanting to be inclusive when hiring and with my target clientele, but at the same time I begin to feel I am alone on this journey. I am not connecting with people in these circles (the business classes, the Chamber events, or networking events) who seem interested in this topic. I feel like I am either a curiosity or an alien.
So I re-connect with my old friends. My white allies and my long time friends and family from “the community.” The community being the only folks I know who show up and talk about issues of inequity. Community members shows up at the MLK breakfast and luncheons. They shows up at Juneteenth events, Congo Square Market and the GIAC Festival. The community show up at rallies and people speak out and say “Black Lives Matter.” The community members are diverse and come from all over the Tompkins County. They have something in common though; A deep connection to the issues of oppression. The community is comprised of folks who either have lived with oppression, or loves and are very involved with others who deal with oppression on a daily basis. It is personal to them. It’s personal to me.
I remember that I always want to be a part of a community like this. Therefore it is critical that I do not focus on “bait and hook.” No bait. No hook. I will do my best to offer my services to everyone and find ways to make programs accessible to all. My business’s success will be based on the impact that it makes, and the community that it creates. I am committed to remembering success does not have to be defined by profit alone and that there is enough for everyone and I am enough as I am. And my friends, I believe there is enough for each of us, and we are good enough as we are and we each get to choose how we define success.