Rethinking Mistakes and Creating Connections

Mar 21, 2022 | Camp Rainbow Gold, Volunteers

By Stacie Tornga, Volunteer Manager —

During the recent 2022 ACA conference in Portland, I attended one session that really struck me personally and professionally. It was called “Mistake-Making and Movement Forward”. It discussed why mistakes are taboo but unavoidable, and how to apologize when we’ve made a mistake that hurts others. It shared how to stop fight-or-flight when we make a mistake and instead, use the mistake to move forward. It made me think of mistakes I’ve made and how I’d like to react to mistakes I’ll make in the future.

Spilled Milk

Imagine sitting at the dinner table with your family or friends, with a glass of milk in front of you. At some point in your life — way back when or just a few days ago — you’ve probably spilled that glass of milk. How others reacted probably had an impact on how embarrassed you felt. If you were a child and your parents scolded you for being careless, you might have internalized that and thought all mistakes could be prevented if you just cared more.

Now, eventually, you probably made another mistake and scolded yourself for how you didn’t think ahead or how careless you were. You start to fear mistakes and especially hate making them in front of other people. If this sounds familiar, you are in good company.

Mistakes are Inevitable

What we often forget or ignore is that mistakes are inevitable. But when owned and learned from, they allow for growth. Growth can be uncomfortable and terrifying but it is also essential and invigorating. In order to make room for growth, we have to open ourselves up to mistakes and take risks. It can feel especially terrifying and troublesome at times, and it leaves many, including myself, thinking I’ll just safely stay in my comfort zone and avoid embarrassment, shame, and public spectacle. 

The problem is, even when we are seated in our comfort zone (like at a familiar dinner table), we can’t ever really avoid making mistakes. No one wants a lap full of cold milk, but it happens.

Vulnerability is a Gift

So, we can’t avoid mistakes, and mistakes are how we grow. We don’t like making mistakes because we hate being vulnerable.

Camp Rainbow Gold has taught me that being vulnerable creates lasting and eye-opening experiences and connections. When our campers come to Camp their first year, they are being vulnerable. They are sharing experiences and hardships with a new group of people.

I still remember the first time I cried in public, including in front of my parents. I was still in treatment and was at the CRG Wishcone Ceremony. At that moment as I was greeted by other crying faces and hugs, I realized I wasn’t alone. Sharing this moment with others created my life-long love of Camp.

Campers keep coming to Camp Rainbow Gold because they have been rewarded for their vulnerability by meeting others who are in the same boat, connecting on a deeper level, and being accepted as they are.

What I’ve taken from Camp is that being vulnerable has given me the most rewarding experiences in my life. It’s how true connections are made and how learning makes the biggest impact.

Finding Your Community

What would we need to feel more comfortable making mistakes, opening ourselves to vulnerability and learning new lessons, and therefore allowing for more personal growth? I think we need a community that is full of grace, love, and patience. Where do you think you could find that community? (Spoiler alert, it’s Camp Rainbow Gold!)

Cancer doesn’t choose who it affects but we choose to gather together and create something that provides comfort and connection in its midst. Our Camp community creates transparency that invites other walls to come down. We have a very unique opportunity together to grow and make mistakes in a space full of people who give you grace, patience, love, and room to make mistakes. Whether you are a camper, counselor, or staff at Camp Rainbow Gold, we will all make mistakes and still be surrounded by people who want to help us learn and grow.

Come As You Are

This year at camp, we invite you all to come as you are, and think about an area where you might like to learn and grow. What will you do when you make a mistake? How can you change the way you think about mistakes? How can you own your mistakes, and how can your ownership create a safe place for others?

Camp is such a special place for me because I can come as I am. Working with our volunteers, I want to continue making sure everyone feels that way about our programs. Making connections and finding a supportive community is incredibly essential and relevant, especially after all we’ve endured the past few years.

I can’t wait to see all our volunteers, campers, and families this summer as we come as we are, make mistakes, learn from them, and make Camp Rainbow Gold an even more inclusive and welcoming place.

Keep shining!