the look on his face

This weekend I watched W wait in line for one of the most elaborate obstacle courses I had ever seen. I kept waiting for W to skip out of the line and abandon the wait for the course, but he kept waiting. He darted back several times to collect and then return my mother’s wallet so she could provide her driver’s license at the sign in. Yup, it was such a complicated course that forms needed to be filled out. I watched W’s face as he moved closer and closer to the front of the line. When he got to the harnesses I was certain he would cave, but he didn’t. He and my mother got strapped in to the safety links and made their way to the start of the four story tall ropes course.

I couldn’t believe how brave W was being.

He started to climb the steps to the first level. By the fourth step I could sense he was beginning to have a change of heart, but the only way to get down was to go up and move over. He had to keep climbing to the top of the first level of stairs. His face crumpled when he realized this is what had to happen. He started to cry, but he continued to climb. I could just barely make out my mother trying to calm him down, letting him know it was going to be ok.

When he was able to make the turn and come back down the stairs he looked so defeated. I called out to him how great he had done, but he was lost in his own mind removing the safety harness. I met him at the exit of the course and swept him up telling him he was so brave.

“I didn’t even do it.” All W could think about was that he did not make it to the top of the course, he didn’t realize how many obstacles he had to go through just to make it through the line.

So many of us think of bravery as something HUGE and LOUD. Bravery is something we assign to rescue workers and others who wade through dangerous moments. So often we think bravery equals hero or problem solver, but honestly it’s the tiny bits of bravery that allow us to achieve greatness.

We are brave when we are big and do big things, but we are also brave when we are young and achieve a small thing.

The ropes course W participated in was just one part of Diggerland, a new construction themed amusement park in New Jersey. While we were there for the day we also rode a carousel made out of the buckets of a 14,515 pound excavator, rode and drove giant construction vehicles, and had one of the best days of our summer.

We were also at the park to celebrate a new partnership between Diggerland and Activation ReACT, a nonprofit established to help communities get involved during environmental disasters. The Activation ReACT mission statement reads, “Activation React is on a mission to provide ways for people of all ages to lend a helping hand during environmental disasters within the United States. We assist individuals young and old to be proactive in their own neighborhoods. Rather than feeling helpless and distant in times of need, they can use their talents as a source of creative fundraising for victims of tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and other natural disasters.”

Seeing W feel empowered to try something extremely out of his  comfort zone (he doesn’t even like heights!) was inspiring to me and it made me so beyond proud of him. Getting him to recognize what he achieved was, in fact, bravery, was a light bulb moment. I love the idea behind Activation ReACT as it reminds us that doing the small task can still be a big deal.

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