Finding Depth In The Shallow End

Don’t take the simplest actions for granted. What drives a person to get up a little earlier, be a little braver and love a moment of uncertainty? Everyone is faced with opportunities where they can rise up, try something new, or place themselves in a vulnerable position. Even if only for the briefest of moments.

This morning we have been thinking about the very simple choices we make. In particular, one that demonstrates fantastic spontaneity and maybe a little hidden meaning for the future.  We are at camp this week, and as we once again strive to push ourselves and our students to deepen their potential and form critically important understandings of themselves and the power of community, we are reminded that ALIVE Outdoors isn’t just about building and delivering meaningful programming. It is also about the smaller unseen things.

Early this morning, before breakfast, twenty-four high school students lined up at the swim dock for an early morning Polar Bear dip. You get the gist of it. You just woke up – rather, you are barely awake – you and your cabin mates gathered all the strength and courage you could collectively muster, and on the count of three – plunge into the cold lake. Standing on the shore watching the “swimmers” is a fortunate task at this time of year. The turn around time from when a warm sleepy body hits the cold water to the point you are standing back onshore is shockingly FAST! It is vividly clear that each participant’s brain is trying to desperately calibrate itself after the brief dip in water that until three weeks ago was ice.

The significance of this morning’s Polar Bear dip isn’t that groups of students jumped into the cold lake, but rather that they planned for it the night before, woke up extra early, and showed up on-time to support each other in something that was completely optional and, in truth, inconveniently too early in the morning. What struck us as significant is that these students demonstrated the personal motivation to go above and beyond what is expected or asked of them. The only benefits for their efforts were personal; they pushed their own individual boundaries, tried something new, and rejoiced, consoled and shared in an act of community.

Reflecting on this morning’s Polar Bear dip, the characteristics that brought these students to the water’s edge are some of the personal traits that we at ALIVE work hard to help our students build with meaningful programming. We certainly didn’t create the Polar Bear dip, and it isn’t a facilitated activity based on process or outcomes, but it allowed the students, on their own, to practice a few key personality traits that they will continue to develop over time. Personal motivation, creating memories, trying something new, being uncomfortable and rejoicing in collective success are all characteristics we know they will take with them into their future challenges.  We are continually reminded of the incredible potential and abilities our ALIVE Outdoors students demonstrate, we get to see it in everything we do.

“Sometimes the little opportunities that fly at us each day can have the biggest impact.” ~ Danny Wallace

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