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My rehab from a painful Christmas knee replacement has left me reflecting about perseverance. Echoes of my dad’s nagging nuggets of wisdom dance in my head. When he would labour on about “persistence and determination”, I tuned him right out. I knew everything as a young teen in the 1970s, and needed no prodding from anyone. So bugger off.

Undeterred, dad insisted that he’d take the capacity to persevere over any other virtue – even intelligence, beauty, athleticism, charisma, wealth, health. That gave me pause back then.

I believe him now. This view is reinforced as I observe our Live-In School students, many of whom are about to start day 101 of their journey of self-discovery and giving a damn about other people. They have taken the virtue of sticking it out to remarkable heights.

I was blessed to receive a copy of an essay on perseverance from one of summer students, Mariah Skater. Here is an edited version:

“The second day of the canoe trip down the Dumoine River was greeted with a bout of melancholic storm clouds. Their dark shapes hunkered down on the horizon like God had drawn curtains over the sky.

At the very least, the heavens would hold back the rains until our canoes sliced through the dawn. We made it barely a kilometer before fat, cold drops of rain began to splash into our boats.

We shivered.

At the first clap of thunder our leader, (our trip leader) Trevor gave the signal and we scrambled to shore. The rain was resilient and began to fall harder, soaking us thoroughly, the forest doing little for cover, and less for comfort.

We were faced with two decisions. We could either keep standing miserably in the torrential downpour, or we could…dun da da! Persevere!

As we gathered in a circle and perched upon the mossy logs, hunkering down into our coats, we hastened back to the boats for emergency feel-better food: chocolate chip cookies. We listened with rapt attention while Andy told us a thrilling and ghastly tale about a haunted forest that kept us all on the edge of our moss-covered seats. The same attention crossed over as Benji continued on his suspenseful tale of the Hotel Paradisio.

Trevor called us all together. “That storm could’ve made a really shitty morning for us. Situations like that can destroy a group. But you guys stuck together. You’re a real awesome group of kids and it’s when people persevere like that it makes a great experience. You’re doin’ it right guys.”

Sometimes it’s all about your willingness to persevere.”

More examples:

T. overcame her extreme homesickness and became the social pulse of our community. She departed in exquisite tears of melancholy over leaving her pals that last night in December, while emboldened by her fresh-off- the-press high school diploma earned through sweat and tenacity.

Right out of those 1960 comic book ads, where the nerd has sand kicked in his face by Mr. Hunkerama, W. arrived as the archetype of the 98 pound weakling with the keen goal of building a six back and mastering 100 push ups. Achieving this in spades and then some, W also improved his English and Math grades to the A level. But nothing compared to his obsession over his newly acquired biceps.

Arriving as God’s gift to all entitled creatures, L. may never have actually emptied a cutlery tray in his life. Navigating away from chores with Houdini-like artistry, L. needed firm rejoinders to get his head in the game. Usurping control of the I Pod dock, he started rocking to the dishes. Slowly reinforced by his team’s growing respect as he stayed on task, L. took chores to a never before seen level of diligence. When he won his third consecutive work ethic award, dispensed with little fervour out of sheer predictability, L. trudged up to the podium with a quiet and unshakeable confidence that betrays a lesson learned for the long haul.

When my knee gets me feeling low from time to time, I need only look to the example of Boundless students.

Warm regards,

Steven Gottlieb