I’m extremely grateful to be delivering a chapel to you this summer. A chapel I began planning three years ago, while hunkering in a tent with Sam Hollister on New Zealand’s Tasman glacier. This was the last section of our ninety day course in New Zealand with NOLS, a school which teaches leadership in the outdoors. Often while on that glacier I found myself pondering how NOLS and Timanous were so similar which soon led me to think about a concept often touted during our course: Tolerance for Adversity and Uncertainty.
This was a skill I was unknowingly introduced to at Timanous. Through cold instructional swim mornings, cabin clean up, and all the struggles that naturally arise when living in close proximity to eleven other young boys. I also noted the importance of this skill on several past camping trips with Timanous; for instance, my Crows rafting trip, which was four days long that year. All four days it rained constantly and rather consistently, in an effort to void this thought from our minds, we all spent a majority of the time trying to build a fire and then keeping it going, which was not easy. McKenna Douglas stands out in my mind as the beating heart of this operation, providing infinite entertainment as he broke large sticks with his muscles or more often than not, failed to do so. Here at camp, we understand the value in working together through whatever adversity or uncertainty we’re dealt, and laughing all the way.
SONG – Wagon Wheel
Humor and levity are essential tools in lessening the burden felt by uncertainty and adversity. Timanous staff are well trained in the art of goofing off and when to deploy the goof. This is why we often finish camping trips with a handful of new recurring jokes, characters, and sayings.
Most critical to this humor during our most challenging moments is the knowledge that it isn’t how we fail or make errors that defines us but how we recover from those failures. Laughing at one’s self when you’ve made “the most foolish of blunders” is an integral part in letting yourself get back up and continue on.
On that same trip to New Zealand with Sam, we were unexpectedly forced to break camp and move it to higher ground to avoid being flooded out by a rapidly rising river. While moving camp our instructor, Dana Sykora, tried testing a puddle to see how deep it may have gotten during the torrential rains. Instead of timidly stepping in foot by foot, she just jumped right in, thinking it might five inches deep or so. Instead, she sank right in- completely submerged up to her belly button, then looked at us all giving her horrified and sympathetic expressions and burst out laughing.
This is by far the best example of laughing at one’s self and has stuck in my mind to serve me in trying times since.
By the time that Dana was up to her hips in muddy water she couldn’t do anything to take back jumping in. All she could do at that point was wait until camp was set up again and she could change into something drier but because what was done was done and the solution wasn’t immediate, all she could do in the meantime was see the hilarity of the situation and laugh at it like we were while watching.
It is my strongly held belief that at the heart of any good leader is the to understand that what doesn’t kill them makes them stronger.
SONG – Let it Be
Second to humor and humility in combating the challenges that we face; is the friends and companions we surround ourselves while enduring such challenges.
There is something significantly more comforting about knowing there are others suffering with you than going about it alone. For me this is why I would talk to everyone in math class before we handed in our homework, because I wanted to have some comradery in knowing that I in fact had not done it.
Not only is it nice to know others are suffering with you, but even better, to know that they’ll help you through it. Again; I’ll lean on my extensive time with NOLS to demonstrate the value of surrounding yourself with people who you can rely on during hard times.
Imagine lifting the war canoes with your cabin and carrying them down to main dock for some odd reason. When you first set out it will be equal weight resting on everybody’s shoulders, but as you pick your way through the rocks and roots outside hawks. The weight will naturally have to shift to a few people as others step around and over the many obstacles laid out for them and this will constantly be changing as you make your way through the gauntlet depending on which route you take. If your companions are Timanous men then eventually you will indeed make it to main dock without dropping the canoe.
Most likely you’ll shoulder someone else’s weight and they will do the same for you at some point on that journey. Bottom line, you made it to main dock without dropping the canoe because you all trusted the rest of your cabin to help you out if needed, and were willing to do the same for them.
Institutions like Timanous and NOLS have shown me that this concept of “Tolerance for
Adversity and Uncertainty” means more than just making it through challenging times but
thriving on them. In both places we do this by embracing challenges with the understanding that there must be an end to them, an end that will only come quicker through hard work, goofiness, and a strong network of friends to go through it with us.
SONG - Lean On Me
Look to this day. For it is life, the very life of life. In its brief course lie all the verities and realities of your existence. The bliss of growth, the glory of action, the splendor of beauty. Yesterday is but a dream and tomorrow is only a vision, but today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well therefore to this day. Such is the salutation of the dawn.
Closing Song – What a Wonderful World
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