For many of the last ten summers or so, one of my sons went on two-week hike in the Olympics with www.riteofpassagejourneys.org. First Nick, then Sam the last few summers, I think Ben was always too busy playing baseball. They are the ones in the middle in these two pics, with a beige or shirt (Sam) or shorts (Nick). If the boots look similar, they should.
Sam got back a few weeks ago, having taken on a 24-hour solo vigil at Toleak Point.
It makes us parents a little nervous – from sunrise to sunrise, each young man has a sleeping bag, water, one match, and they are spaced a mile apart on the beach, as “on your own” as you get in this world (yes, the guides keep an eye on them). There are many purposes, but at the core is making this part of the hiking journey a challenge, each has to be with their thoughts and find within themselves what they need for those 24 hours. For each of them, it will be one of the harder tests they’ve faced, albeit a beautiful, hard test.
So why make it hard when it could just be another day of hiking along our awesome Washington coast? Because that’s when we learn about ourselves, what we are made of. It’s when we truly grow and become better, stronger people, i.e. when we make it through a hard challenge in life. It’s through crucibles in life that our character is formed and we become more resilient for the next challenge.
When it comes to SVP and your philanthropy / civic engagement, I hope you will seek out your own solo vigil, push yourself in this work to places where it’s hard, and you will be challenged …. where you have just a “sleeping bag, water, and a match.”
This work we do – philanthropy, strategic volunteering, etc – is meant to be joyful, for sure. But it shouldn’t always be easy, happy and without the same challenges that we all experience in our professional and personal lives, that made each of us who and what we are today.
You don’t become better and stronger in life without solo vigils along the way. We’ve learned to celebrate the people who fall and get back up, and well we should. We need to do the same in this work of philanthropy, we have to seek out the hard work, the challenges, put ourselves in places that make us uncomfortable and uncertain so that we can find our way out. Why? Because it’s in those hard places where the real work is happening in a community. If you don’t get into a social cause deeply enough for it to hurt, to feel uncomfortable, then you ultimately aren’t going to affect real change.
At SVP, our Lead Partners working with Investees come across rough points in the relationship, our strategic volunteers sometimes face a problem of constrained resources or having to navigate internal dynamics, I’ll never forget Tim Schottman’s moment of pain and hurt when he get close enough to make a real difference.
In life, the challenges and hardships come at us, whether we want them to or not. In philanthropy, we have to go find our “solo vigils,” seek them out. They are out there, and there is immense personal growth and social change alongside, but you gotta take the hike to go find it. Sam did last summer, now it’s your turn. See you this fall on your solo vigil, I hope.