At our monthly team meetings, one of our crew members discusses some of our five values: strength, courage, commitment, heart, and spark (formerly trailblazing). This is Karine’s reflection from this month’s meeting.
Courage – We take the right path, regardless how tough it may be. We know the pursuit of our vision will continue to call upon our courage.
This time around, I’m going with courage. Ah! Ah! Got you, fuckers! [Editor’s note: Karine always chooses heart!] As I read the definition of this value of YACC, my head and heart went directly to our latest Retreat Adventure, and specifically to one of our participants, Kai. Once again, we were privileged to share our retreat with another group of absolutely amazing people, but I spent most of my days hiking with Kai and his supporter, Katlyn, which gave me perspective in a way that will forever stay in my heart. It emphasized and personified what we mean by courage, one step at a time.
A few months ago, Lesley told me she received a Retreat Yourself Adventure application from someone who was legally blind (not to confused with legally blonde). Considering that we had to hike a fucking mountain or two, we had to look into a few details with Gros Morne Adventures (our trustworthy and experienced amazing guides). After chatting a bit with them — and with Kai — we all felt this was feasible. Kai was all in from the get-go, and even though he had some fears and uncertainties, he was ready for this. Having hiked both the Lookout Trail and Gros Morne a few times, I was actually excited and inspired to be doing it with someone who not only faced cancer in his early twenties, along with a few other unique health challenges, but do it with someone who would not be able to actually see clearly where he was putting his foot. He was confident, so we were, too.
Holy shit! Kai most certainly took the right path, regardless of how tough it was. He did it with trust in himself, Katlyn, and us, and did it with courage and positivity. On Friday — the second day — I followed Kai for pretty much the entire hike up and down the Lookout Trail. I was enjoying getting to know him and listening to him, but I was also completely in awe after each step. Katlyn, without missing a beat, would describe the accidental path to Kai so he could navigate it as best as possible — “There is a big rock on your left, stay on your right but watch out for the root.” “Big puddle of mud in front, climb on the rock on the left and then a little to the right and then you’re good.” “Big step ahead, small, medium.” And while being instructed how to walk this difficult path, Kai was sharing with us about his life, challenges, funny stories, passions, etc. Both Katlyn and I couldn’t quite understand how he could listen to her, keep his story straight, and not fall flat on his face or be out of breathe — I’m still not clear on this. When we asked him, he just laughed! We might never know, I guess.
When we tackled Gros Morne the next day, my level of awe, inspiration, fucking mind boggling state was even higher. Gros Morne is a very challenging hike when you can see everything perfectly. Sometimes you can’t even see where to step next, but Kai — with Katlyn’s help — did it. We got to the base and he made the courageous choice not to get to the top. Not because he couldn’t do it, but because we would have needed a lot more time. He took a breath, and with a smile on his face, said, “Okay, I understand, but can we go a little further?” And further we went. We ate lunch 1000 ft high. We hiked even more challenging paths with water flowing down rocks, trees, big boulders in the middle of the way — nothing stopped him from smiling, talking, and hiking. We made it to what was OUR top that day, and made it back down safely, which anyone who has been to Gros Morne will tell you is just as much of a challenge.
I still get emotional thinking of it. I don’t know if Kai really knows what these two days meant to me; I guess he will if he reads this.
Thanks, Kai, for the demonstration of courage. Thank you for giving me — and us at YACC — the motivation to keep moving forward regardless of how rough the path is, towards our vision. It is so worth it.