The Long Haul
Earlier this month I signed up for a 14.6-mile hike, even though I haven’t hiked a distance of more than a few miles in over a decade.
“Woods to Waves” was a benefit for St. Dorothy’s Rest, a nearby Episcopal camp and retreat center, raising money for their “hospital camps.” These camps are for children who have had cancer, organ transplants, or sickle cell anemia. Our ultimate goal was to hike from St. Dorothy’s beautiful setting in the redwoods of Sonoma all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
On the morning of the hike, the director of St. Dorothy’s, Katie Evenbeck, invited all the participants – about 50 of us – to circle up. She reminded us that we were about to embark on something that would be really difficult. Regardless of whether we made it all the way to the ocean, or just a few miles, we would all be stretching ourselves that day.
But then she reminded us of what we were walking for. She told us more about the hospital camps and the children who attend them. We were each given the name of a camper we would be walking for that day, along with a bit of their story. Then Katie taught us a cheer that we all chanted together. Someone said a prayer. And we were on our way.
Katie was right: it was a long and difficult day. There were several uphill climbs, including the very first mile. There were blisters and sore muscles and constant vigilance against poison oak. But there were also long stretches of downhill. And there were moments that were absolutely glorious: trekking through the majesty of the redwood forests, our first glimpse of the ocean on the horizon, and coming around the last bend to the Pacific Ocean spread out before us.
Signing up for a 14.6-mile hike seems like an apt metaphor for the commitment Braid mentors have made.
It may feel like more than you are prepared for, and you may wonder if you’ll make it over the long haul. At the same time, you are intrigued and excited and wonder what you will encounter along the way. You have challenged yourself, and you are ready to rise to that challenge.
In the last month we have launched two new mentors teams, and we are preparing to launch another very soon. Every time we do that, we invite the new team to circle up for the first time. We remind them that they didn’t sign up for something easy. We remind them that the rewards will unfold slowly and will be hard-earned.
But we also tell them about the young person they will be serving and the trauma they have endured in their young life. We offer a reminder of how transformative one hour a week can be in that young person’s life. We introduce them to the fellow mentors with whom they will be journeying.
Along the way there are stretches that are easy. There are moments that are glorious. And there are times when it feels like walking uphill.
At all of those times, we return to the importance of circling up.
We do this in a lot of ways – at monthly team meetings where mentors gather with their facilitators to process their joys and their challenges, at monthly team events, at quarterly gatherings for mentors and facilitators. We put emphasis on all of these gatherings because while an hour a week with your youth is the heart of being a Braid mentor, the circling up is equally important. These are the times when we cheer for each other, pray for each other, motivate each other. We grow in relationship with those who are journeying with us and we are able to remind each other that we are not walking alone.
We know that being a Braid mentor is much more than a pastime: you sign on to change a life, which is no small feat. We hope you know how much we value your dedication and determination. And we hope you won’t forget the importance of circling up together to rest and replenish and be motivated for the next stage of the journey.