Carpe diem. As educators and camp directors, Lauren & I feel the pressure to create a safe, healthy and fun ‘bubble’ where campers can simply be campers. In 75 years of Blue Star magic, camp has never been more important for our children than right now. This extra special camp season marks our 75th anniversary, also known as the Diamond Jewbilee. It’s a really big deal! What keeps us inspired, motivated and working tirelessly is the very good work of guiding children into being their best selves and evolving into good people. Lauren’s grandfather and one of the co-founders of Blue Star, Herman Popkin, spoke about the mission of camp as building good people. The phrase—the good people—is a reference to Danny Siegel’s poem of the same title.
The Good People
The Good People everywhere
will teach anyone who wants to know
how to fix all things breaking and broken in this world –
including hearts and dreams –
and along the way we will learn such things as
why we are here
and what we are supposed to be doing
with our hands and minds and souls and our time.
That way, we can hope to find out why
we were given a human heart,
and that way, we can hope to know
the hearts of other human beings
and the heart of the world. – Danny Siegel
My late mentor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Ted Sizer, reminded me often that children always are watching the adults and learning from our modeled behavior. This concept helps ground us in how we speak, act and even think aloud alongside our campers. A question I grapple with is whether humans are inherently good, and how much our communities can impact whether that innate goodness expands or contracts over time. At camp we seize the opportunity each summer to create anew an inclusive and authentic community where every camper and staff member can practice doing good. Equally important is owning when we make a poor decision with our words or actions that hurt someone else. Part of the work is holding space for all campers to reflect, learn and grow from those mistakes.
One way we facilitate this growth is through our daily cabin or unit Circle Ups. These are officially scheduled activity times where the adults at camp lead the campers in sharing their feelings. Last summer one of our senior camp’s unit leaders came up with his own unit wide mantra to drive the point home: “Talking about our feelings is cool.” The format of the Circle Ups varies widely and might take the form of a “Rose & Thorn” (where everyone shares a low point and then a high point from their day), “Pass the Positive” (where everyone shares a piece of positive feedback to another member in the circle) and much more. Yes…Lauren & I do this at home with Rose & Eli around our dinner table.
After a decade of being in our roles as the 3rd generation owners/directors of Blue Star, I am grateful for the opportunity to influence positively the next generation of good people. Since I was a head counselor back in the day, I dreamed of becoming a summer camp director. Every day I wake up super energized to double down on the good work. Lauren & I feel humbled to carry the torch and do our part in teaching campers how to be good people. A massive debt of gratitude goes out to all of those who came before us and all of those who will come after us. To the good work!
15 thoughts on “The Good People”
Thank you for sharing the poem by Danny Siegel. I am going to share that as well as the message is an important one. Thank you also Lauren and Seth for keeping on the legacy and traditions of Blue Star. The same camp that I was a camper and a counselor. I love that our boys now enjoy the same fun and traditions. Thank you for continuing to create a safe, healthy and fun place where our boys can enjoy summer and as you said, “simply be campers.”
A beautiful and thoughtful reminder of what makes Blue Star so special! Thank you for everything you do for our children!
It is a warm hearted reminder of the way Uncle Herman used to start a speech or introduction to us all. “Good people”, “good people” he would repeat until we all settled down and listened.
To this day, when speaking with my alumni counselor friends, I will throw in a ‘good people’ with a smile as I think of the days back in the 70’s that we enjoyed the Blue Star experience and the respect that Herman commanded.
At Blue Star, I came in a rebellious teen and came away years later with 3 life changes: I found myself through my endearing love of the mountains, I met my best friend, Mark Lundy, and found the love of my life, Karen Yosha, now married almost 42 years!
Thank you Lauren & Seth for carry the torch and keeping the hopes & dreams alive for all the “good people” that follow.
Steve, how good to read this from you. I hope you are well my friend. However, you forgot one thing about your time at BS. How the CTs and Prep CTs would drool at your dance moves. Take care.
Damn, what a memory. Still hanging on those dance moves. Just wish I had your golden blonde hair to wave around while I was in your turf at the pool
All the best
I agree with Louis. Thanks, Lauren and Seth, for continuing the traditions of Blue Star and continuing to make relevant improvements each year. You have helped us raise these kids. From the long-ago days of juniors and pioneers to now – one nearly a full-fledged adult and the other ready to move into the Village – I know the lessons they learned at Blue Star will serve them sell through life – just as they did for me and for my mother. Here’s to a healthy, happy 2022. May we see the day when pandemic life is behind us.
Even when he had a bur under his saddle, Uncle Herman would always start out with “Good People.” I can still see him with his hand in the air saying “Good People” at our staff meetings. I learned so much from him. Patience, kindness, thoughtfulness and generosity. I hope I can rest as peacefully when the day comes. Thank you Seth and Lauren (who by the way I gave swimming lessons to I believe) for keeping the flame burning.
So great to hear you recall Herman and also to remember Harry. My family was very close with your grandparents. My father Howard Epstein was a counselor in 51 and 52 also dance camp with Fred Berk. Then we all attended Camping Unlimited in 71, 72. I remember being a little boy at camp when Roger & Candy were married up in the chapel. I was a senior boy camper in 80. And while not officially Blue Star, I came every year to Blue Star for USY Encampment for the week. Blue Star is sacred ground for me and my family. I think something very special happens there that allows the modeling and growing you speak of.
Thank you for carrying the torch. As an early generation camper, I am always remembering my magical summers at Blue Star. How special to still have friends from those many years ago!! Someday when I am buried, it will be with my copy of Once Upon a Summer.
Thx for this post and the chance to remember what the good people did for us at Blue Star. Happy days for sure. I was a camper,CIT,& cabin leader/counselor from 1950-1963. Those summers were the Best ! Life long friends were made !💙
Wow! What fond memories I have of Camp Blue Star as the camp tutor in the late 1960’s. If my almost 80 year old memory is correct, I only worked 22 hours a week. One of my duties was to fly to New Orleans to escort Blue Star campers back to camp on the train. I think we stopped and picked up campers in Hattiesburg. I think there were 80 plus campers and I believe I was the only Blue Star passenger on the train who did not have country ham for breakfast! I have fond memories of the “Good People”, Herman and Harry Popkin.
Brenda Bolt Artemes
I had seven wonderful summers at CBS from Counsellor to Camp Leader, for which I thank the Popkin family. Roger was so influential in me choosing a working life as an Education Social Worker. I know he is greatly missed.
However, it is clear Lauren & Seth carry on the good work in helping children and staff grow. I can see how the Danny Siegel poem fits into CBS and its 75th year.
Every summer I think of my years at CBS.
Keep up the great ‘Popkin’ work.
There are no words that express my Love and Respect for Everything Blue Star. Those days from 1950-1963 were the most wonderful days of my life. I was the youngest Camper—five years old for a two-month stay! One of my little-girl Camp friends is visiting me Now—a sixty-five-year friendship. I Love You All, and I will Forever be grateful for everything that CBS gave me.
Sherry Verkauf Friedlander
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A wonderful and inspiring read. Thank you 🙂