Name: Joyce Fay Camron
Hometown: Corrales, NM
Circle Start Date: August 2018
My initial reaction was to think that I couldn’t do it – that I wouldn’t know how. I needn’t have worried. I’ve been delighted with how well and how easily it has been working…Our Circle is exactly what I’d hoped it would be.
What do you do when you’re not running a Ben Franklin Circle?
Animals are the biggest part of my life. In 2000 I founded Bro & Tracy Animal Welfare as a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to helping animals, especially getting dogs into great homes. Over the years our efforts have evolved to focus more on providing low cost or free spay/neuter services in remote areas where many people do not have the means to have it done. I still foster a limited number of dogs because getting to know so many of them personally and meeting the wonderful people who eventually come to adopt them keeps it real for me.
In addition to taking care of my own animals, I am a photographer, mostly photographing animals. I am on the board of the Alliance Française d’Albuquerque and I’ve been enjoying tai chi for a few years. I have long resolved to improve my French and practice tai chi more but resolution may not be my strongest virtue.
What attracted you to the Circles?
The opportunity to talk about ideas. So much conversation these days seems to revolve around entertainment or politics, but not so much about ideas. I read about the Circles in the New Yorker last April and was intrigued. I began a conversation with Julie Mashack who encouraged me to start a circle since there wasn’t already one in my area. My initial reaction was to think that I couldn’t do it – that I wouldn’t know how. I needn’t have worried. The virtues provide the program. I’ve been delighted with how well and how easily it has been working.
I like the goal of “improving ourselves and the world around us.” Of course, I could immediately see how much I could improve myself through consideration of the virtues, but I wondered how I could improve the world. As I go on I see how our actions can affect the world around us in small but specific ways like our diet and in more general ways, like just being a force for positive living and thinking. Practicing the virtues will lead to a healthier life for me and each time I eat an earth-friendly meal instead of a fast food burger I’ve done something good for the planet as well. People too often use their words to encourage each other’s anger and hatred and we see the harm that is doing. Surely, friends meeting for the purpose of having a thoughtful discussion of Ben’s virtues and exploring other virtues as well can, in the same way, put something positive in the world.
Tell us a little about the composition of your group?
After beginning to seriously consider starting a circle the next question was whom to invite. I thought about which friends might get into the idea of Ben Franklin Circles and also their availability. I wanted people whose lives were not already overscheduled. After much deliberation, I invited 4 friends and explained the idea. We met on the patio of a local café and made a plan to meet monthly and discuss the virtues.
We have been adding members one at a time and there are now eight of us, which feels like a good number. I like that the group has been able to grow organically. It felt like it happened naturally. We now meet in a lovely room in the Corrales Library.
We have different professions and life experiences but similar beliefs about the world we find ourselves living in. I have enormous respect for each of these people, their intelligence and character, and I enjoy hearing how each one interprets the virtue of the day.
I have known all of the members for a long time but some of them are meeting each other for the first time. I have been delighted to see the interest that some are taking in others’ activities and the connections being made.
How has hosting a Ben Franklin Circle impacted you?
Hosting a circle is so easy! I usually write 2 emails, one soon after a meeting and one close to the next one. At the end of a meeting, we set the next date and I put it on the library’s calendar. That’s it! Our Circle is exactly what I’d hoped it would be and I’m so glad Julie urged me to do it.
I’ve learned a lot from the process and am motivated to develop other ideas. I hope the Circle is encouraging others to act on their ideas as well.
Which virtue means the most to you personally and why?
Resolution! I resolve so many things – improve my French, practice tai chi, read more books…. The list goes on. I wish I were more successful at accomplishing what I intend. I keep trying.
I find that the virtues stay in my mind and often affect my thinking. For example, there is a common theme of moderation or balance and I am aware of them as I make decisions about what to eat, drink, buy, etc. Does it have value or am I doing something just because I want to? In so many ways we waste resources of time, energy and money when we could do something worthwhile instead. Some of those things might be good for the planet as well.
I find that other members of the group and I react to some of the ways we may have learned about the virtues as children; at a time when we may have rejected the teachings of adults. Now I see the virtues quite differently and understand the wisdom. I see that they are not rules made by adults but they represent some understanding of how to live a healthier and happier life.
What is the last commitment you made to yourself? How’s it going?
My lifelong commitment is to keep on learning and discovering. It’s going well but I wish I could have learned these lessons years ago. I wish I had learned the value of appreciation as a child and the value of Ben Franklin’s virtues.