70. Courage, August, 2016

Maine’s license plates used to read, “Vacationland”. That was, of course, because tourists make up a major portion of our state revenue. But it was also true. Just as Michigan draws vacationers (especially summer ones) from Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky, so too Maine draws summer visitors from the northeast, from Washington, DC to Boston to Albany.

This summer migration is especially apparent now as the Point reaches its maximum occupancy. Families are everywhere: walking, kayaking, playing tennis, boating. This morning, however, my gaze falls on one special place — our modest community boathouse and the sailing class that is taking place there.

These bikes tell the story…

… of summer freedom.

Our sons, Rick and Matt, were in this sailing program over 30 years ago. Now our grandson, Colin is off for his first day of a week’s classes. Aaron will join him on alternate days, (making room for his tennis lessons).

Of course, Colin did not wish to attend the sailing program, any more than Rick and Matt did at first. Sometimes parenting requires encouraging kids into experiences they do not relish — in part because we expect that eventually they will. In retrospect, some of Matt and Rick’s fondest memories of their childhoods on the Point stem from sailing classes and the lasting friendships they formed there. In fact, Rick and Kath were out on the Bay night-before-last with one of Rick’s former sailing classmates.

I spoke of “encouraging” intentionally. I am struck by how much daily courage childhood requires. Virtually every day they are attempting adventures they have never attempted before, experiencing new things, meeting new people. It’s the kids they meet that matter. They are like dogs circling one another cautiously, not wanting to reveal any weakness that might (literally) brand them for life in the ongoing sagas of childhood. Colin is just at that cusp when his gaze shifts. Previously, when confronted by a new situation he would look to his parents for cues to guide him; now (naturally) he looks more to

his peers. Where once he was an observer on the outside of adult society, now he is a member of an emerging society, learning to find his place in it. Scary stuff.

Monday morning 12 year-old Colin mounted his bike and pedaled his way to the boat house about 1.25 strange miles from here. He did not know what might lie ahead. He had never been in a sailboat before. Was it true that they could not back up? Would he be able to master the knots? Would he pass the swim test? (Colin can swim fine, but here the water is frigid. Would his fat-free body withstand the cold?) What kids would be there? Would there be anyone he knows?

This is the stuff of courage.

Once I had the privilege of joining a week-long Department of Defense tour of special forces facilities around the country. At one point we visited a Coast Guard training camp where each of them, as part of their training, had to be maced. The mace was out there, waiting for them. They knew it (which obviously made it worse), and yet they had to confront it. I thought of that with Colin and his swim test. Surely, you can remember similar incidents in your own childhood. Moments of courage, and hence of growth. The hardest ones are not the emergencies, when adrenalin takes over, but the anticipated horrors that await in plain sight.

Pretty heady stuff: the freedom of a bike and now piloting a small boat.

Imagine the conversations as these young people chart their own course.

Finally, he was back at home. Challenges surmounted; tests passed; friends made; growth achieved. “No big deal.”

Like the door of our village boat house, they are open to the world.

These kids make me so proud.

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I am a retired academic, educated as a philosopher, who now lives at the end of a dirt road in Maine.

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Stephen Weber

Stephen Weber

I am a retired academic, educated as a philosopher, who now lives at the end of a dirt road in Maine.

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