I wrote recently about trying something you aren’t good at. That was an important component of my youth~and my adult life, too. When I was in junior high I went to sleep away camp two different summers. I went to the same camp both times. Each time it was for a week. anyway, one of the activities there was canoeing. They would pair us up when we arrived at the canoe station. I was very short, and they always put me in the front. I always did great at the canoeing activity. We would steer on through and make it back fine.
MANY years later, my husband and I went camping with our then 6 year old son. My husband had never camped. Except for our back yard, neither had our son. we borrowed a friend’s tent–and they taught us how to set up the tent. No problem—and that went off without a hitch. the campground was beside a lazy, slow-moving river. At the camp office they had an ad up for a 3 hour canoe trip. We signed up. They drove us to the canoe station where we got our canoes and life jackets. tThey explained that the river was low and asked if we needed instruction. No, I said. I will show them what to do.
We were off. Our son in the middle, my husband in the back, me in the front. The river was low, the boulders and the tree stumps numerous. We veered from bank to bank. I could not figure out how to steer or what we were doing wrong. Before i knew it—we capsized. My husband and son panicked. Stand up! I shouted. It was waist deep. I put our son back in the canoe. I steadied the canoe and my husband climbed in. I climbed in.
We continued our veering…until I could see that the river split. We needed to get to the left to make our way back to the canoing station. The current picked up and we were heading to the main channel. I could not get us steered to the left. I bailed out….and walked us back to the canoe man. The water was only chest deep…and I could swim us back if necessary. We had life jackets, we could float, we could climb up the embankment if need be.
What had happened to my expertise?? Guess what? Whoever they partnered me with each time (when I was at camp) did all the steering. Any paddling that I was earnestly doing in the front of the canoe was completely irrelevant. Yup! I was just ballast all those years ago….The only problem was—on this canoe trip all those years later, we were ALL ballast! However, I DID know what to do in an emergency. Although the conditions did not qualify as an emergency, I could tell that I needed to do something….
Being able to think, and swim, and know that I could get us there if I had to drag us there told me that I DID learn something at camp. I learned to navigate tricky waters. Sometimes, handling things means climbing out of the boat and steering the group home. My husband helped keep all our things in the boat and we both kept our son as calm as could be.Our son was scared! We got back, he staggered back up onto the beach vowing to never set foot in a boat again.
I couldn’t have that—so a few days later we went canoeing again. This time my son had to paddle a canoe with his buddy’s big sister in it. she told him what to do and had him navigate a lake….When he did that he got over his fear. And so it goes in life. We get through a situation. Then we try to learn how to handle what we couldn’t handle. The next time, we have confidence. And when we face a brand new situation, if need be we improvise, don’t we?