Day 2: Mutual Respect
Brown eyes. Blue eyes.
We don’t always have words. For instance, what are the ways we show love? Or appreciation? How can people communicate without speaking the same language? There are moments and situations that do not require the languages of our raising. Here we return to our first native, human tongues: a smile, our eyes, our bodies. These need no translation.
Bright Eyes. Eager eyes.
I close my eyes. I take three breaths to prepare. I open my eyes and they meet the eyes of one of my campers. There is a jolt of surprise as our eyes meet. We quickly avert our focus elsewhere, I chose his hairline. Then we slowly bring our eyes back to meet. Am I afraid what my camper will see? My fear to be discovered as imperfect? Me, with my soul laid bare?
Happy eyes. Curious eyes.
But we continue our task. Time slows. Maybe only a second has passed and my thoughts are flying. But then, yes, I see it! The corner of my camper’s mouth, once so serious, curls upwards, his cheeks now have dimples, there are laughter lines next to his eyes. There is delight there and I feel it too as my face transforms into a huge grin. I have glimpsed a part of his world. After 10 seconds we move on to the next team member to experience their world. In the depths of our eyes we have known each other for years. It is here, eye to eye, that we can find mutual respect and see people as people.
Relaxed eyes. Teary eyes.
It starts with the connection between one camper and coach, then moves to the team, then it moves to a new community. In the words of David Barkan, the Director of Ultimate Peace, “My mission is to impact thousands of young people by helping them transform the way they see one another and the world – so they can change it.” Look people in the eye with mutual respect and meet them in a language we all understand. We want to change the world. We don’t always need words.
Buses arrive, kids come out and the magic begins. They enter the UP world underneath a thatched roof of clapping hands, singing and dancing. Teams and rooms are assigned as youth hop on the bright field where music and festivities continue in a maelstrom of joy. Hands are shaken, ecstatic hugs are exchanged, discs fly — everywhere games are played, stories from the year are exchanged, and new friends are introduced to old ones.
But in the midst of this, loneliness can be found. Like a young Hebrew speaking girl attending camp for the first time and knowing no one from her community. Fear was easily seen as she kept her gaze down, her voice inaudible and her hands stretching her t-shirt continuously. Her desire to be part of the team was there, and yet, she felt without a friend.
After the first practice, a raucous dinner and more celebrating on the fields, this same shy girl says to our overwhelming surprise with total confidence and a huge smile, that her biggest fear was to come to camp knowing no one, and her biggest joy was to have found a new best friend in the sympathy of a sweet, supportive Arabic speaking girl.
The intensity of this friendship and the way it blossomed was so unbelievable that we asked a few questions to the two girls, hugging each other in between each of them.
First of all, can you explain how you talk together without speaking the same language?
لقد تواصلنا عبر حركات اليدين، تحديداً عندما لا افهم بعض كلماتها باللغة العبرية
(We can also communicate by hand signals when I don’t understand her words in Hebrew)
And so you understand a bit of Hebrew?
And Noa, you only speak Hebrew? (she understands a bit of english)
What happened at the beginning for you to become friends?
את ישבת לבד וגם היא הייתה בלי אף אחד ורצית להכיר אותה ֫ יותר כי היא מעריצי תמיד נראתה נחמדה
(I used to sit alone and I noticed that Shared also had nobody. I wanted to know her because she looked cute)
Hugs and Shared whispers a “I love you.”
لقد سألتني عن اسمي وعن عمري وبلدي واجبتها ، وبدأنا بالحديث من غير ان نشعر بالوقت وأصبحنا نشجع بعضنا البعض ، وحاولت قدر المستطاع مساعدتها على الضحك لانها خجولة ، ومع الوقت بدأت ترقص مع فرقتنا وقد فعلت الكثير من الاشياء المرحة
(Noa came to me and asked my name, age and where I came from. Then we started to motivate each other and bring each other up. Noa also helped me to become less shy and now I am dancing!)
What is special about your new friend?
نستمر بالضحك طوال الوقت ونمرح معاً ، لاننا جئنا لهذا المخيم لكي نمرح حتى بالأوقات العصيبة والمتعبه ، فنحن نبقي روحنا الرياضية عالية
(We always have a smile on our faces and laugh and our goal is just to be happy and always look at the bright side even when we are tired.)
שיש לי על מי
לסמוך שאני לא לבד
שיש לי פה חברה שתומכת ומאמינה בי
(It is good to know that I have a friend that helps and supports me and that I can rely on).
And now how do you feel after meeting each other?
They went on playing happily again, leaving us full of sweet and strong emotion, driven by their pure love and care for each other, regardless of all the barriers we thought might keep them apart.
That is why we are here at Ultimate Peace camp; to make new connections, sometimes leading to unlikely and unexpected friendship.
Peace. Salaam. Shalom.
It’s a powerful sight to behold the formidable line of UP Summer Camp staff stretching for 40 meters holding hands. We are a line of visionaries, world changers, the leaders of today and tomorrow, beautiful individuals, and pure energy. We are Coaches, LITs (Leaders-In-Training), North American, European, Middle Eastern, new and seasoned — and we are united by purpose.
In the middle of gathering, meetings, chatting, this activity brought the reality of our outside lives into our little bubble. Our differences pull us apart, creating tension. Our eyes are opened to the inevitable truth of backgrounds and experiences we cannot choose, things that could divide us. Regardless, we hold on to each other, our beliefs, and our trust to uphold Ultimate Peace.
We see the incredible power that unites us through our diversity and give a voice to the idea of connection. Together as we stand in our line each in our own place, we remain connected. We are one beautiful team holding each other UP!
Today we get our Summer Camp Campers. We will work tirelessly to connect these individuals to be part of our powerful and beautiful human chain through the five core values of Ultimate Peace: FUN, FRIENDSHIP, INTEGRITY, MUTUAL RESPECT, and NON-VIOLENCE.
I believe in the little things. In Ultimate, in relationships, in life. The little wins become a victory, the little quirks become what we love most about each other, the little moments become a lifetime of memories. It all adds up. This is what Ultimate Peace does. We prove that little moments of peace are possible. Even if I might not see the impact of our efforts in my lifetime, those little moments can and will amount to peaceful coexistence between divided people.
I’ve had a little over a week to rest and reflect on my experiences at camp. Yesterday was my first day back at my rather hectic restaurant job, and during my tiring shift of pouring coffee and clearing plates, I had Ultimate Peace buzzing in my head. I was walking around the restaurant in the morning feeling very confused. I thought to myself, “Why has no one offered me a high five?? Are they crazy? Not one person shook their hands at me when I brought them water… Everyone had their, dare I say it… phones out? At a meal?!” I was in shock. No, really. In all sincerity, I didn’t understand the environment that I was in. As I brought coffee and water to customers, I greeted them with a smile and a “good morning!” I was almost always ignored. Despite serving an entirely full restaurant for over seven hours, I think I could count on one hand the number of times someone’s eyes met mine.