Driving four Braid youth to summer camp turns out to be an illustration of the ways mentoring leads us into unexpected territory.

“There’s a spider in here! I am going to die!,” was the scream from the back of the rather large rental vehicle.

“Yes,” yelled the other three youth, who seemed to be enjoying the discomfort of their friend in the way way back seat! “We can see it!” they shouted all the louder. “It is ready to bite you,” they laughed.

And so went the journey to take our four intrepid Braid youth to a week of camp in Sonoma County. What began as a rather quiet trip, with four anxious, tired young souls was ending in this energetic joust over an imaginary arachnid.

In between, Rebecca had adroitly negotiated this behemoth of a vehicle through the streets of San Francisco as we collected each one at their home, over the Golden Gate Bridge, through the brightening hills of Marin, onto the country roads of Sonoma County, up a headland at Bodega Bay where we enjoyed a picnic and watching three of our youth wade into the ocean with laughter and joy and great abandon, through redwood forests and up single tracks to St. Dorothy’s Rest Camp, where we alighted with our charges and watched as they engaged for the first time in games with their new cabinmates.

What was so wonderful was watching these four, who knew each other somewhat through their teams’ participation in Braid team events, begin to bond as a group. And as they stood together in the large circle of other campers, they looked to one another for support and assurance and promised that they would look out for each other.

Rebecca and I left with a prayer on our lips and a hope in our heart that this week would be wonderful.

The journey back was not so pleasant (if one can describe having one’s ear drums broken over a rabid spider pleasant). The traffic was…well…traffic. As a result we ended up looking at a map the old-fashioned way and winding our way through some spectacular countryside, only to get stuck in another long line of traffic, which led to more map consultation and a U-turn in the middle of the road, and a right turn down a back road that was a country road, and finally after quite a very long time we spotted the lights of Vallejo.

All told, a journey that seemed to be quite straightforward turned out to be a grand adventure and much longer than we ever imagined.

But, I suppose that is the point of a journey. No matter how planned or straightforward it seems at the beginning we might as well anticipate all sorts of unexpected joys and anxious moments, killer spiders and wading in unknown waters, new friends upon whom to lean and who bring you comfort, places of “stuckness” and the need to shift in the moment. But, there is always an arrival. And hopefully a feeling of coming home, even if only a little.

Our journey with these four beautiful souls probably felt very much like your journey as a mentor, as a team, as a community.

I would imagine every meeting has a feeling of “setting off” with a plan that can run into killer spiders and unknown waters and joy alongside some anxiety and a feeling of belonging to a community that has your back and who will be there for you.

It is a grand adventure.

Thank you for saying “yes” to this adventure. And for setting out every week. With hearts bigger than any SUV. You are all driving so adroitly. We witnessed the fruit of your work and efforts and map reading in the redwood forests of Sonoma. And at a field day. And in the conversations with caregivers. And in conversations with you!

Thank you for being the gift!

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