There was laughter, there were tears, and there was a whole lot of attentive listening going on at the Cup of Karma event last Monday night at Camp Jabberwocky. Campers explored how to honor someone deeply influential in their lives during the workshop.
Cup of Karma is Polly Simpkins’ baby. “When I was 23, I met a man on the midnight train from Copenhagen to Amsterdam,” Simpkins explained. “He told me a story about a village in India he lived in where the most important possession any of them valued was the relationships they had with each other. He told me about how they truly valued the act of celebrating those relationships that taught them the most. Ever since that night I have been working to make good on a promise I made to him when he asked me to somehow remind people to appreciate each other in my own unique way, over the course of my lifetime.”
Simpkins said that she began the Cup of Karma Project in 2015 on the Island to bring voice and celebration to the stories we tell about the people who’ve made a difference in our lives — those who show up for us, influence, inspire or change us.
“At the time, my dad had dementia and he no longer remembered any of his own stories, and in many ways, he was isolated because of his disease,” Simpkins said. “I was always looking for ways to get him out in the community [so he would] feel less isolated.”
The project took off and Simpkins has produced more than 20 events over the years. “My dad died over a year ago, but I still see his smile as he took part in the Cup of Karma events. He felt included and honored, and for many elderly people with dementia these feelings are rare,” said Simpkins.
She explained how the project worked at Camp Jabberwocky. “We wrote about the people who were important in our lives, we made bead necklaces, we painted lanterns, and just spent time together taking time from busy camp life to really focus on the people who inspire us and are important to us. I think that’s what it’s all about. Really just stepping back and making time to honor the people who make our lives worth living.”
The 15 participants ranged in age from 8 years old to adults in their 50s, nine of whom decided to go on stage and share the people who meant the most to them. Many campers chose to speak about their love for one another, their counselors, and others who helped care for them. One young woman expressed heart-felt gratitude for her boyfriend. A young girl read eloquently about missing her horse back home and their exploits together. Everyone shared in the speakers’ smiles and laughter. The campers who took the stage were greeted with supportive shoutouts and applause. The sense of group support was infectious.
And there were also folks who spoke of loss. Simpkins provided insight saying that at the workshop, “There was a lot of emotion. There was a life-long camper who died and they’re having a memorial tomorrow. There was a lot of emotion about people who are no longer in the world that we missed. And we focused a lot on honoring people, no matter if they are here on the planet or not.”
A number of participants spoke with tears in their eyes and trembling voices of what a fantastic friend this camper had been. Clearly, he made a huge difference to a lot of people. There were others who shared about the death of a grandparent, and their sense of loss was tangible. One young lady told a heart-wrenching story of a friend with a disability who committed suicide. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house after she shared the depth of her grief. But while her story was sad, it was beautiful to see the way fellow campers and beloved counselors were holding and hugging those who were grieving. For many, the evening was one of healing as they celebrated those who meant so much to them.
This is the third year Simpkins has worked with Camp Jabberwocky. “I consider it a great gift to work with the campers, and hearing their stories is always so inspiring,” she said. Camp Jabberwocky is one of the best places to host an event like this, Simpkins said, because the campers are so open sincere. “I consider Camp Jabberwocky one of the most creative places in the world — campers, counselors, and staff are inspiring just to be around. They love life and are just a joy to spend time with. They help remind me every year how important it is to say ‘I love you’ and to offer open arms for the people who show up for us.”
It was an intimate evening, a celebration of love and caring. Simpkins said it was her hope that the audience would be inspired to think about their own lives and the people who show up for them. “For me, the Cup of Karma Project is my small way of offering a new way of looking at things, counter balancing the negativity and fostering gratitude for being able to simply live our lives with those we love. I think if we spent more time appreciating and showing gratitude for the people we love, the world would be a much simpler place.”
See the Cup of Karma website at acupofkarma.com to learn more about the organization, events, curriculum, and podcast that you can sign up for yourself.