My husband recently took a group of 30 students, aged 11-18 to the summit of Kilimanjaro. Every one of them made it to the top. Braving the cold on that last difficult night, the students dug deep to find the resources to keep going when their bodies were shrieking at them to stop. There is no doubt in my mind that if they were walking in isolation, very few would make it. With support, encouragement and companionship of others in the same predicament, the venture somehow feels less daunting. There is, indeed, strength in numbers.
This week I came off an intensive week working with veterans and first responders recovering from Operational Stress Injuries. Even though they are only four days into a ten day program, I already see a difference: a lightness in their faces; straightness in their back; and a shift in the manner they speak to one another. What originally started out as a journey of isolation has transformed into a group effort. Accessing emotions that have been long buried they push forward in their desire for recovery.
Initially avoiding eye contact, they now meet each other’s gaze with respect and admiration. Trained to view expression of emotions as a sign of weakness, they are coming to understand it is, in fact, the opposite. Facing that which we fear is the ultimate act of courage.
“We are alone in this together.” One of them affirmed. With these words I know that something important is shifting. For what started out as a solo journey, has now become a group expedition.