I'm not completely sure what brave looks like. But I recognize getting braver when I see it.
Several years ago when I worked with at-risk youth we'd take them on week-long trips to challenge courses. It was part of the plan to make them more self-confident.
The culminating event of those trips was the zip line. I remember standing with young boys and teens beneath the towering platform they'd climb to get attached to a cable, step off the edge of the platform and zip a couple hundred yards through the sky to a platform at the other end. I'd like to have a buck for every kid who stood there, looking up with fear in their eyes and said "I will never do that."
A few even quite angrily called me creative names while considering the possibility I might try to "make" them do that.
While we're talking about bucks, though, I'd also like to have one for every one of those kids who at the end of the week abandoned never and climbed up that platform. I'm not sure there's a greater event to witness than a young kid overcoming his fear and screaming with joy as he zips across a southern sky. It's like watching the most useful of prison breaks.
It was a thrill to relive some of those memories this week with my own kids. Especially my Elliott.
Elliott has always been less apt than his younger brother Ian to take a step on the wild side. When some of the riskier opportunities have come his way he's politely stepped away and said "no thank you." Even as he's watched his younger brother take some of those opportunities on he's rather confidently stood on the sidelines and said good for him.
So when Ian AND Elliott declared they wanted to do the zip line while we were at Massanutten this week I was caught off guard. I said let's go take a look at it first before we decide we really want to do this thing. We did. We looked. Way up the hill at that platform seemingly sitting in the lower levels of the clouds and they said, yes, we want to do it.
I'll be honest. Even after they were harnessed up I kept waiting for the change of mind.
As I watched them rise together, brothers, side by side up the mountainside on a conveyor, I kept waiting for them to look back with "get us out of here" eyes.
But they never looked back.
Then I watched the two of them climb up on that platform. From where Katie and I stood they were a couple of specks really, but they were our boys so I knew exactly what those specks were. And then, before I could see them racing across the sky I could hear cable against cable above me as they flew toward us. The emotions welled up in me as I watched Elliott fly above me onto the landing platform - and then Ian.
I knew I'd just watched them take giant steps toward bravery. There faces up above us were all the evidence I needed. I couldn't help but recall the life changing steps those steps turned out to be for so many young kids I'd worked with years ago. I'm sure my face projected my pride in those kids on my own.
The last several years I've personally discovered just how much better life is outside of our comfort zone than it is trapped inside it. What a thrill to watch our boys leap outside of theirs and experience just that.
And they are already asking, when can we go back?
Two Brave Boys Fying Through The Virginia Sky
And Dad Wasn't Going To Miss Out On The Fun