A few nights ago, several campers gathered around the campfire. We began to discuss the “unwritten rules of camping.” Several newbies in the fire circle were curious about these rules. Who created them? Who, if anyone, enforces them? Why are these rules needed? And why aren’t the rules written down?
Good questions! The conversation that followed seemed more like an airing of grievances, but in retrospect, maybe that’s exactly how the unwritten rules first originated.
Here are some of the unwritten rules:
- Turn off all outside lights at dusk so that others can enjoy the stars.
- Use the road or pathways to get across the park. Never cut through RV front or back yards.
- Any type of noise is a disturbance. Think: barking dogs, leaf blowers, children, and talking on a cell phone outside. Also, exterior TVs and radio speakers, screechy awnings or slides, and loud diesel trucks.
- Do not use wood for campfires. Use propane fires to prevent excess smoke.
The newbies were understandably confused. Their questions included: How do you see to get to the showers and back in the dark? Why can’t I take the most direct route? What if we want to get an early start to the day and our truck and slides make noise? Aren’t campfires a quintessential part of the camping experience?
Good questions! It all seems to come down to whose rights matter most. In the current state of our society, finding an answer that is acceptable to everyone can be a challenge.
Whose rights matter most?
Does the right to walk safely in the darkness supersede the rights of stargazers? Or can using a flashlight help respect the rights of both campers?
Does my right to own a dog supersede the right of another camper’s need for sleep? Or could a brief, civil conversation defuse a potential argument? For example: “I’m really sorry our dog was barking this morning. I should have walked him before I showered. I’ll do that from now on.” Or: “I like to sleep with the windows open when the weather is nice. It’s hard to sleep if your dog barks, even though he sure is a cute little guy.” Both campers verbalize their feelings and needs and perhaps discover or enhance a new friendship.
And the campfire? Many people have real health issues relating to smoke. The propane campfire systems eliminate the issue, but if you knew the smoke from your campfire posed a problem for a fellow camper could you forgo the fire? Or if you realized that your camper neighbor wanted to make a campfire, could you close your windows to keep out the offending smoke? Would it be kind to alert your neighbor: “You may want to close your bedroom windows tonight. We’ll be leaving early in the morning. I apologize in advance for any noise. We’ll be as quick and quiet as possible.” Concessions? Yes. Helpful conversations? You bet! Keeping the peace? Absolutely.
Most times when we feel our rights are infringed upon, our first response is anger or frustration. What if instead we responded with kindness? Being kind doesn’t mean suffering. It may be as simple as closing a window or grabbing a flashlight. It may mean a civil conversation in which you clearly but kindly explain your problem. Then if your camper neighbor fails to respond you still act kindly. You do what you can to eliminate the problem from your end. After all, life is short. Who wants to live angrily?
How do you see it? Is it always best to do whatever it takes to keep the peace? I’d love to hear your take on this.