The Lessons I Learned from my Vikings

By: Emily Goldberg  |  August 9, 2023

By Emily Goldberg, Publication Manager and Layout Editor 

It was a regular summer Sunday afternoon, and I was out and about, finally enjoying my well-deserved break after finals. However, while the quiet after the school year was calming, I couldn’t help but feel that my summer plans were lacking. They were, in fact, quite dull, consisting of two classes and not much else. I was happy to get some school requirements out of the way, but felt like my summer was missing some excitement. Luckily, right at that moment, the Rabbi’s wife from my shul, who had previously offered me a job at the day camp that she runs, followed up with me about the position. I gladly accepted. I thought that day camp would be a cute and fun way to get out of the house and earn some extra money as well. Little did I know what a life-changing experience I was actually signing up for. 

It’s common knowledge that when you are working with younger kids, especially in an environment such as a Jewish summer camp, you are expected to be a role model for the children, teaching them important life lessons and skills. In my bunk, however, the roles were also reversed. 

My rambunctious yet charming eight-year-old boys, otherwise known as bunk Vikings #1, taught me many lessons which I will cherish forever, and impacted my outlook on life in more ways than they may ever know. 

For starters, my knowledge of the Hebrew language has expanded immensely because of my conversations with my very Israeli campers. My bunk practically brought me back to Israel, helping me work on my fluency and even teaching me a vocabulary word or two. 

I also learned things I never thought I’d know, such as that the only animal with a purple tongue is a giraffe and all the ways to survive in Minecraft. My Vikings also showed me how to be silly and act crazy like no one is watching.

All jokes aside, though, my Viking boys taught me about the importance of living life spontaneously. Instead of sticking to a rigid schedule, sometimes you have to throw your plans out the window and delve into the unknown. Oftentimes, these moments of spontaneity end up being life’s most unforgettable and treasured moments. 

Don’t get me wrong, as expected with a bunk of 16 eight-year-old boys, we had our difficult moments. Yet, throughout these experiences, my Viking boys taught me the importance of smiling through the hard times. When life throws you challenges, accept them joyfully. For example, one week our camp took a trip to Canobie Lake Park, a famous amusement park in New England. On this particular trip, one of my campers was scared to go on many of the rides. Each time, one of my other campers took his hand in order to sit with him. Most importantly, they all encouraged him by noting that if they all tried the rides together his fear would subside and he would have an outstanding time. Watching my campers face trials like these on their own exemplified that maintaining a positive outlook can change the course of your life for the better and turn your struggles into opportunities for growth, if only you are willing to take a chance. In this way, you will be able to appreciate the value of all your experiences in life and eventually will find fulfillment in knowing that you came out of these new challenges stronger than when you entered. 

Most importantly, my Vikings taught me how to cherish the present without looking backward or forward, like I often tend to do. Spending time with them showed me the importance of not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Rather, focus on the instant that you are living in as if it is your last moment on earth. Enjoy what you have right now and treasure all that you are given at this very moment in time. 

As the famous saying goes, all good things must come to an end. If I could, I would go back to that first day of camp and do it all over again, keeping these lessons that my Vikings have taught me a little bit more at the forefront of my mind. I would hold on to our time together even tighter than I already did and appreciate it even more because of my newfound outlook. But I can’t do that. So instead, I will be taking these lessons with me into this upcoming semester, into the future, and most importantly, into my next stages of life and beyond. 

Take these lessons and apply them to the next adventure in your life. Don’t look back on a different stage of your life, wishing you had cherished it more in the present. Preserve all those moments for as long as you can. Make them last a lifetime. 

And who knows, when the time comes around and it’s almost summer again, and you ask me, “Hey Emily! What are your summer plans?” 

You’ll already know the answer.