Read Wendy’s speech on Appreciation from the STARFISH ceremony last night:
A marine biologist was doing a research experiment and he placed a shark into a large holding tank and then released several small bait fish into the tank.
As you would expect, the shark quickly swam around the tank, attacked and ate the smaller fish.
The marine biologist then inserted a strong piece of clear fiberglass into the tank, creating two separate partitions. He then put the shark on one side of the fiberglass and a new set of bait fish on the other.
Again, the shark quickly attacked. This time, however, the shark slammed into the fiberglass divider and bounced off. Undeterred, the shark kept repeating this behavior every few minutes to no avail. Meanwhile, the bait fish swam around unharmed in the second partition. Eventually, about an hour into the experiment, the shark gave up.
This experiment was repeated several dozen times over the next few weeks. Each time, the shark got less aggressive and made fewer attempts to attack the bait fish, until eventually the shark got tired of hitting the fiberglass divider and simply stopped attacking altogether.
The marine biologist then removed the fiberglass divider, but the shark didn’t attack. The shark was trained to believe a barrier existed between it and the bait fish, so the bait fish swam wherever they wished, free from harm.
It’s an amazing experiment that this guy performed – and one that EVEN THOUGH it’s about a shark and some fish, can be connected to you and me in our own lives. There are probably lots of times in your life when you can think of a situation where you were “trained”, so to speak, to stop trying or to give up – just like the sharks were in this experiment. (I definitely can think of times in my own life.)
Some of you may be trained to believe that you stink at baseball because in second grade you didn’t make the travel team in your town. Some of you may say that you’ll never get a decent grade in math because your teacher last year told you that math will never be your best subject. I bet some of you are afraid to go waterskiing because the first two times you tried it, you fell and now you think you’ll never make it around the lake standing up.
Or maybe it’s not a belief about a skill you do or do not have, but about a relationship that you’ve given up on. Perhaps you’ve put an imaginary wall between you and a bunkmate that you can’t seem to get along with, and have decided that you’ll just never be friends. Or you’ve stopped giving one of your new counselors a chance because she waits every night until AFTER you brush your teeth to give out mail – and you want it as soon as you get back from evening activity.
Tonight I encourage you to think about yourself as the shark in that tank – and get rid of the imaginary barrier that is keeping you from trying something again, or from giving someone a second chance. Whatever it is for you…take this opportunity to do it while you’re here at camp, surrounded by your friends – who really are more like your family. Maybe there’s hope for you as a soccer player or a dancer or a waterskier or just as a friend. Just think about that.
I remind you also tonight that this is the Tyler Hill summer of being kind. This is the summer of paying it forward and finding a way to become just a little bit better of a person than you were when you got off the bus two weeks ago. Apologize when it’s your turn, instead of clenching your teeth and turning your back simply because you’re used to always being right. Camp is too short to waste that time in a fight that’s not worth it. Learn the names of the people who clean the showers and toilets in your bunk every day, and thank them when they walk out. Wash your paintbrushes after you paint your woodshop project – don’t just leave them in the sink for the arts and crafts staff to clean because you know that they will. Smile at and thank the nurses who give you band-aids and ice and Advil and cough drops and ace bandages and cups of Gatorade.
And as everyone tonight has reminded you…Appreciate. Appreciate all that we have here at camp. Appreciate the awesomeness of your best friends sitting next to you and your counselors taking care of you and the sunsets and the food and the activities, and most of all – even though they’re far away right now – appreciate your parents for making it possible for you to be here in this magical place.
We’re two weeks down…five to go. Don’t forget to smile when you wake up every day and see how good it feels. Your smile might just bring a smile to someone else’s face…and then…just like that…you’re paying it forward before take your first bite of cereal.
Have an amazing week.