In a sense, the development of compassion and the ability to nurture is a large part of the journey that Island School students go through over the course of a semester. They learn to become stewards for their environment, family members for their dormmates, and advocates for their own well-being. Along these lines, students and faculty members are expected to show up for themselves and for their community each morning at 6:30 to take part in some form of exercise. Whether it be team sports, a run-swim, or a chosen track workout (running or swimming), taking time to care for our bodies at the start of each day reminds us that we are strong and that we are surrounded by people who lift us up.
This past weekend, students of the Spring 2017 semester class stood and faced down massive physical challenges - the same challenges that all students of semesters past have taken on: the Half Marathon and the four mile Super Swim. On Saturday morning at 5:15, students, faculty members, and Island School staff members stood side by side as the horn sounded and they began to run. An hour and a half into the event, there were smiles, there were tears; panting athletes battled to keep their legs moving forward. Some stayed in pairs or groups, others chose to sweat it out alone, but every single participant tagged the flagpole at the end of the course and celebrated, together, the accomplishment of a goal that mere months ago had seemed too daunting, too difficult to achieve.
On Sunday morning, the other half of our community lined up in the water just off Sunset Beach. A massive yacht floated a few hundred meters away, yet the world it represented seemed hundreds of miles away. Still, it waited there like it had shown up for the event. Leigh, on the beach, sounded the start and flooded bodies with adrenaline, soon to be burned off and replaced with burning lungs, aching limbs and tired minds. Once again, just a few short hours later, every athlete that had begun the swim managed to finish it in an impressively short amount of time, hugging each other and falling into shallow waves, thankful for a place to stand yet unsure if they remember how to.
Spending one hundred days training for these ultimate goals gives students a sense of purpose and develops camaraderie within the community. We learn to give support and we learn to receive it. We learn to respect ourselves. And we learn to work hard.