Friday, March 28, 2014

On Being a Leader

By Ranya Shannon (2013 Seed)

            Being a leader. I didn’t really know what that meant until Seeds of Peace. I’ve been told I was a leader before but for me all this meant was taking charge of school projects or bossing my brother around. I never saw myself as someone who could make a tangible change in my community. Through the help of countless people I now see that all it takes is one person to make a difference.
            Doing the right thing isn’t always easy. One of my favorite parts of camp was dialogue. Every camper had a dialogue group of around eight to sixteen kids and two educators and we would talk about everything from problems in our community to the most personal aspects of our lives. We met almost every day and let me tell you, everyday I had a new bit of knowledge that would help me not only to be a better leader, but also to be a better person. In dialogue we learned that in order to be a true leader, you need to not look to the right or to the left, to see what your friends are doing, all you need to do is look forward to do what’s right and they will follow your example.
Photo by Bobbie Gottschalk, Co-Founder, Seeds of Peace
            While half of the camp experience was all about learning to be a leader and spreading peace and acceptance, the other half was simply about having amazing experiences and meeting new people. I can honestly say that I will never forget the friendships I made and how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to get to know people the way I did.
            One thing that shocked me about Seeds of Peace was how genuinely friendly and kind everyone was. I could sit down next to someone I’d never talked to before and have an amazing conversation with them about almost anything. As a generally shy person this was intriguing to me. I bring this back to the Seeds of Peace motto “The way life could be.” It occurred to me the life indeed could be full of such kind accepting people of different races and backgrounds all joining together with the common goal of making the world a better place.
            When I try to talk about Seeds of Peace to my family and friends I always end up saying “You had to be there.” I honestly wish I could describe to them how it felt to be in the lake after color games, or to experience bunk night with some of the greatest people I’ll ever know. I’d love nothing more for them to feel as I felt when on around the second day I realized what a special place this camp truly was. Sadly words only say so much. (Not to say I haven’t tried convincing everyone I know to apply next year.)
            Seeds of Peace changed my life in more ways than one. In camp, many times you will be asked to sum up your experience in one word, the same few words would be repeated several times. Some common ones were intense, awesome, fun etc. This exercise would always be very difficult for me because there wasn’t a word that summed up the feelings of friendship, love, peace, acceptance, yet also urgency to make a difference accurately.  I ended up choosing indescribable.