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May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.

Nelson Mandela

Today I was a helper at a day camp for kids. None of these children were mine, and I was not originally part of the planned staff, but with a last-minute cancellation, my friend who was running the camp reached out asking for help, and I was able to adjust my plans and be the second adult that went to the various classes with seven children ranging in age from 7 to 11. I was really little more than a shadow most of the time, with a little bit of helping people not to get lost and to stay in line between classes, but it was such a delight to be able to see these young people create small crafts, have mini adventures, and be taught some valuable character traits along the way.

One of the classes was about commitment. The instructor had the kids hold open a small ziplock bag with pre-measured sugar as she poured in a little milk, half-and-half, and vanilla. Then she closed that bag and put it in another small bag before handing it off to her husband who was waiting with a large bag that had ice and rock salt in it. Then the large bag was handed to the waiting child to “continuously rock gently back and forth” but to not shake. It was rather amusing to see the way that each child responded to the instructions. Some were very attentive to doing exactly what they had been told. Some resisted because the bag was cold and looked for solutions to keep their hands warm, but had rocking that was less than “continuously.” Others vigorously kneaded their bags with determination that may have been a little overzealous. After the allotted time had passed, the instructor had each child bring their bag to the sink for her to open and rinse and put the newly-made ice cream into a cup. It was interesting to see how, even though each bag had the same ingredients and the same amount of time had passed, because of how they had–or had not–mixed their contents there were varying results in the texture of their ice cream. Some were the expected soft-serve consistency. Some were more like a milkshake. One poor child had some that was barely more than just all of the ingredients well mixed.

This is certainly less than a scientific experiment, but it stayed with me all day. The idea being taught was the importance of being committed. The teacher had explained that sometimes things are not easy in life, but you just have to keep going, and eventually you’ll have a sweet reward in the end. Sometimes it takes working through and sticking to tasks that are uncomfortable to achieve the goals that we have set. That’s why you have to stay committed. 

What are you committed to in your life? Are you doing what you can to show that? Circumstances of life and other people’s choices will always have an effect, whether good or bad, upon our lives. We can work to influence, persuade, and improve, but the only person that is really within our power to control or change is ourselves. Maya Angelou famously said, “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” We do not have to let hurt from the past rule our present or taint our futures. With practice and mindfulness, we can grow in our power of self restraint. If we stay true to our most important values and commitments, even when it is uncomfortable, and especially when it is difficult, we will see the fruits of our labors and know the joy of accomplishment. Sometimes that might be ice cream. Sometimes that is peace of mind.

Recipe and Photo Credit: The Best Ideas For Kids