“Why do things that are hard?” A simple question.

Chris Maxey posed this question to our visiting guest, Chris Irwin, tonight.  Chris was invited to speak to our young leaders this evening, addressing the topic of his choice.  Irwin chose leadership.  Irwin has led a distinguished career in the military, as an Navy Seal, cultivating the qualities of a leader.  After briefly addressing his past and experience leading groups as a Seal, Irwin opened the class up to questions.  One of the first questions that was posed to him was: “Why did you decide to become a Navy Seal?” Irwin responded, after pausing to reflect, that “it was a challenge.”

Why do we do that?  Why do we, people, want to challenge ourselves; why do we make ourselves do things that are hard when we know that we will struggle? Why?

We challenge ourselves and push our limits. We do things that are uncomfortable even though we know that they will be unpleasant, if not down right miserable.  We toe the line of failure; sometimes plummet off the cliff of failure.  We do things like come to The Island School where we will lay in bed, sun burnt, bug-bitten, and exhausted when we could be at home eating scrambled eggs in bed, cooked by mom with love.  Why not scrambled eggs?

When, minutes later, Maxey stepped in with this question, Irwin’s answer struck me:

“To see what you are made of.”

I have heard this phrase countless times in my life, but all the sudden, it seemed different and mysteriously illuminated: “What you are made of.”

Now, in my mid to late twenties, I think for the first time, that I might actually know what I am made of—that is to say, what things make me up.  What things I am and what things I am not.  I have pushed my self out of my comfort zone, light years away from what I knew and took for granted, at different times and with different results.  I have been shaken from ease and slammed into painful.  I have moved away and moved back, and away and back.  And I have struggled, and I have struggled.  And I now know what I am made of.

I am made of banana cake.

And, I am made of lemon cake too, and all of the vegetables that grew in my mom’s garden growing up.  I am made of a passionate dedication to healthful eating, and occasional treating.  I am made of dominoes that sometimes score in multiples of five, and that sometimes fall and fall and fall until everything comes crumbling down.  I am made of a sense of home and of a drive to spread that feeling everywhere.  I am made of words and expression.  I am made of competitive sports and running alongside you, too.   I am made of compassion and the way that I feel when I do something special and unexpected for someone.  I am made of wanting to show someone new, something new, each day.  I am made of knowing what makes me special, and what makes me average, and I am made of things that I am not proud of.  I am full of high expectations, and full of grace for myself when I do not live up.

I am made of the moment I almost crumbled.  I am made of the moment that I didn’t.

Every day Island School students ask themselves: What am I made of?  And each day they answer it more and more.

Forty eight young leaders arrived here almost two weeks ago.  They arrived trembling and unsure, with trepidation and uncertainty.  They arrived this way because they knew this would be difficult, and they came anyway.  They came with the dedication to grow themselves into forms not yet imagined.  They came with the spirit to look inside, reflect and decide, just what in the world they might be made of.  They knew it would be hard and they came.

But rest assured, at The Island School, we are made of wanting to help your children see they are made of; because, we know that they are made of great, powerful, and triumphant stuff.