Can Adventure Transform Pain?

Contributed by Colleen Jackson, CV intern and volunteer.

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In the summer of 2016, I was driving during rush hour on Foster Avenue toward Lake Shore Drive when I witnessed one of the most shocking displays of resistance I have ever seen.

From a few blocks away, I could see that traffic was held up in the opposite direction all the way onto Lake Shore Drive, moving at a snail’s pace. As we inched closer, I saw a young, boy walking backwards in front of the line of angry cars. He was screaming expletives, eyes wild with the surge of power he was feeling from blocking traffic from the front of this strange parade. He was yelling at the cars behind him, daring them to run him down, asserting himself over a world that made him feel so helpless.

Then he would stop, look up into the sky, and scream those same expletives to a heaven that must have seemed a million miles away.

Whether he was aware of it or not, the statement he was making by holding up the busy, “important” people coming from the bustling, wealthy, downtown of Chicago, was awe-provoking in its severity. His actions said “NO! I will decide what YOU do and when YOU go. YOU will listen to ME.”

His pain was the loudest part of him.

He was a child, no more than 14 years old, willing to risk his life in order to stand against a world that told him his life wasn’t worth much to begin with.

How did this precious child get here? What events led to him to make this choice? And how might we have intervened long before this decision, this negative risk, was ever made.

Enter the mission of Carpe Ventus:

That mission is to develop redemptive relationships through life-giving risk, partnering with some of Chicago’s best organizations serving under-resourced youth in the areas of poverty alleviation and violence prevention. Carpe Ventus works to strengthen mentorship through sailing by providing access off the grid and onto the water where they address life principles like teamwork, communication, faith and fear, risk evaluation, and contingency planning.

And we are not the first to tread this path. Kurt Hahn of Outward Bound, a pioneer in the world of adventure education, said this: “It is necessary for a youth to experience events which 'reveal the inner worth of the man; the edge of his temper; the fiber of his stuff; the quality of his resistance; the secret truth of his pretenses, not only to himself but others.’”

Teaching young adults to hoist the sail, control the tiller, and tack when the wind changes, challenges some of the barriers and obstacles that have held them back.

And this is not all talk.

Research shows significant improvements in the areas of resilience, social support, and self-efficacy for young adults involved in adventure education programs like Carpe Ventus.

“The cutting edge of challenge, it seems, can and does make people stronger, particularly when the salve of social support is applied.”*

Let’s prove to these kids the “fiber of their stuff.” Let’s let them prove it to themselves. Let’s call out the truth of who they are and the lives they deserve to lead.

Let’s help them to see what they are worth and turn life-destroying risk into life-giving risk.

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Colleen Jackson lives in Chicago and has served as a regular volunteer for Carpe Ventus on and off the grid since its founding.  Currently she serves as a curriculum intern and is a student pursuing her Masters in Counseling degree at Adler University.



*Neill, J. T., & Dias, K. L. (2001). Adventure Education and Resilience: The Double-Edged Sword. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 1(2), 35-42.