Sunset on the water

Character is Forged in Crisis Part 2

Stephen Ashton

The canoe flip in part one brought an abrupt halt to the trip for the day. The entire Troop had stopped canoeing to care for the needs of cold wet Trailmen. The plan to canoe to Bullard Landing had been scuttled and Josh, as a new Troop member, felt guilty for ruining the Troop’s plans.

That night after campsite had been set up, the group was warm, and a hot dinner had been served, the boys sat around the fire talking excitedly about how they had handled the crisis. Adults listened as the Troop reflected on the important role each member played in gathering wood, starting a fire, heating drinks, praying, cooking food, finding warm clothing, unloading sleeping bags, tying up canoes, setting up a windbreak, and performing dozens of other jobs that seemed to fall into place seamlessly. After the exploits of that day, the boys seemed to feel invincible. Although they were 8 miles behind their plan, one boy said, “If we can come together as a Troop to do all this, I am sure we can make up our extra mileage tomorrow.” In that moment, Josh began to realize the Troop was not angry with him at all.  He began to feel a little less foolish and realized his failure, in a unique way had made him a part of the group.

That day each boy rose to the occasion and played an important role in the life of the Troop.  Each boy had spent time preparing for this moment and had an important job to do. As the boys reflected on their actions that evening, they clearly saw the importance of structure, planning, teamwork, caring for others, and not giving up. No one had to lecture or instruct them, adults asked questions to guide the conversation and learning took place as boys reflected on their experience.

Helen Keller once said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” In moments like these boys are at their best. The outdoors provide a unique laboratory where managed crisis is created and resolved in short amounts of time and life skills are taught. The effects of actions are quickly seen and significant growth is achieved.

The story told above is true and comes from the author’s experience using Trail Life principles for 15 years to lead groups of boys living in the wilderness.  Names were changed and roles were adapted to help the reader understand the incredible power of the principles used by Trail Life USA to grow boys to become godly men. Crises like this are not unique to outdoor experiences.  They occur all the time: at home, at school, and in family life. The Patrol Leadership principles used to bond boys and leaders as they grow in character and leadership have application in the home.  Over the next several weeks, the Trail Life blog will identify some of these principles and discuss their value in growing boys to become godly leaders of character who are prepared for life’s adventures.

About the Author

Stephen Ashton