Welcome to WLE’s blog. I hope you find the entries here meaningful for your life and work.
We have a tradition at Wendigo Lake called the ‘Paddle Party’. For decades now, every staff member who completes two years or more of service receives a canoe paddle personalized with art and a quotation, which epitomize that person’s contribution and character. After receiving the paddle, the recipient passes it to whomever wishes to speak first, and then the paddle is passed on, until every person among the peers assembled who wishes to speak has done so. Typically, people will tell a story or two about the recipient which reflect the kind of person he or she is. Often, those who have worked most closely, will share a tale that ‘roasts’ the recipient over some past event. There is lots of laughter and tender moments of affirmation.
The last weekend of November, we had such a paddle party. We stood in a circle around a fire, a bright moon arcing overhead, and celebrated three Instructors who had moved on to new opportunities over the previous months. For over three hours there was a continuous stream of stories, laughter and occasional tears of deep emotion. One of the Instructors shared how her mentor had advised her when she first arrived, “If there is one thing you can do for these boys, it is to love them.” The stories about that Instructor (and the others) told that night were testimony to the fact that they had indeed done just that in a most consistent and professional manner, constantly going above and beyond any reasonable workplace expectation for the sake of making the boys’ program experience as positive and therapeutic as possible. Several times that night, I heard colleagues say unashamedly “I love you” as they shared stories of how deeply influenced they had been by the guidance, support and close friendship shared between them. It was an honour to stand in that circle and share this sacred tradition that has been repeated scores of times over the history of Wendigo Lake Expeditions and Project D.A.R.E..
Relationship. This is the magic ingredient that explains much of the transformative power of Wendigo Lake Expeditions’ therapeutic residential programs. Many of the young men who come to our program have stopped believing in themselves, stopped respecting themselves, stopped loving themselves. We understand that our task is to believe in, respect, and love these young people until they rediscover their capacity for success, the goodness within them, and their infinite value.
As the famous Canadian author Jean Vanier wrote in his book of verse tears of silence:
“… if you believe in me then maybe I can do something worthwhile…maybe I can do something with my lifethus the light of hope begins to burn
your constant trust in me communicates warm sensations of confidence and faith
that look in your eyes, the touch of your hands brings me some marvelous message of hope.”
It’s often a rough ride to accompany a young person on this journey back from the abyss. It is not an easy path. It is not for the naïve or the fainthearted, nor the cynical.
It is a vocation which requires an exceptional work ethic, discipline, strength of character, and above all, the ability to see a young person both as he currently is, and his potential. I am humbled and privileged to work among such people.
Steve Glass CEO