All The Small Things

“Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

-Author Richard Carlson

“For the person whom small things do not exist, the great is not great.”

–Author Jose Ortega y Gasset

What are you doing to "bump the lamp" next year?

In the making of the film “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” Disney came up with a special effect called “bumping the lamp.” The term comes from a scene, where Roger, who is added in post-production using entirely hand-drawn animation, bumps an overhead lamp, which causes the lighting in the room to change as the lamp swings around. The interactive lighting makes the effects work seem more real to us on a subconscious level, as Roger's lighting changes with the environment around him.  Essentially as the light changes in the room with the spinning light, so should the cartoon rabbit’s color.

Disney spent thousands of hours and dollars to go back and redraw the images with the shadows because “even though 99% of the viewers would have never noticed the missing shadows, at Disney we bump the lamp for the 1%” said Michael Eisner, Disney CEO.

As I begin to look towards summer 2014, I am constantly asking myself, what can I do to “bump the lamp?”  What is it that we do in camp that only matters to the 1% but that is what makes it all the more important?  For me, two things come to mind.

First, we make the smallest things seem big to campers.  Here is an email that I received a couple of days ago from a camper mom:

“I was going through my almost 7-year-old's clothes and he has a lime green shirt. I told him it's time to get rid of it. I cannot get out any of the stains that are on it. He screams "NO, that is my shirt from camp. I was so scared to try this new thing at camp called the Twilight Zone. But I did it. I loved it. And I did it over and over again. My hands got dirty and I wiped them on the shirt. The shirt reminds me of that."

A stained shirt to a mom, a memory to my son.  Thanks. J

Second, we make the biggest things seem small to parents. For many parents, leaving their camper for a week is one of the most difficult things they do. Our goal is to do little things that “bump the lamp” and make this big process seem small. Making sure I’m the first person they meet, simplifying the check-in process, staff members finding answer when they're not sure how to answer a question, decorating cabins, etc. These things and more make all the difference.

So reflecting on it again, we do “sweat the small stuff” here at camp.  And I bet yours does also. Have you started thinking about it even more for next year?  Start by asking this one question: what’s one thing we can do to bump the lamp for campers and parents next summer?  Now make “great” happen.

Cory Harrison has directed resident camp programs for more than 10 years with The Salvation Army and the YMCA. Currently, he is the Director of the YMCA Camp Benson in Northwest, IL. He is a life-long camper, an avid reader, and daily cereal eater. Reach him via Facebook: