COVID-19 tests ideas of risk and courage

Dear Families,
We are certainly living in strange times! Although I have written this column before, the Jewish value that comes to mind for today is courage, in Hebrew “ometz lev.” The most interesting thing about the Hebrew word is that it translates as “strength of heart.” It is not just about being strong in a physical way but doing the right thing when it is hard. More than that, it is also about doing something new and different, even when it is hard. As a camp director, I think and talk a lot about risk and what it means to take appropriate risks. Here are a few sections from an article titled “Giving Ourselves Permission to Take Risks” by Elizabeth Jones. The article was written primarily for early childhood but it is really a message for all of us.
“Courage, as we’ve learned from the Cowardly Lion, is a virtue that is hard to sustain. New experiences are often scary; we don’t know what will happen next or what we should do. Yet all new learning involves risk. We learn by doing — and by thinking about the past and the future.
“Risk is inevitable; it’s a requirement for survival. The challenge is to name it, practice it, enjoy the rush of mastery, and bear the pain when pain is the outcome.
“A child who climbs may fall. But a child who never climbs is at much greater risk. Fall surfaces under climbers aren’t there to prevent falls, only to make them less hard. And hugging doesn’t make the pain go away, but it does make it more bearable. “
There are many calls today for courage and risk has taken on new meaning for all of us. I remind families and staff that RISK is not a four-letter word to be avoided but it must be evaluated on so many levels. As we see our essential workers risking their lives, we are often amazed at the choices that they have made but are so thankful that they have made those choices for all of us. Risk helps us grow whether we are 2 or 102 — but it always must be done as smartly as we can do it.

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