Have you visited the biggest lake in the world?
Gichigamiing, also known as, “Lake Superior,” holds 10 percent of the world’s fresh water– three quadrillion gallons. Try to absorb that for a moment– you really can’t.
Gichigamiing is the greatest of the great lakes. Almost 32,000 square miles and more than 1,300 feet deep. It touches Ontario, Michigan, Wisconsin and our own Minnesota. It is so big, it can create its own small tide. It is fed by more than 200 rivers and nearly 1,000 tributaries.
The Fellowship Initiative (TFI) is pretty big too. TFI is a nationwide JPMorgan Chase endeavor to engage emerging, male leaders of color with hands-on leadership development. TFI touches hundreds of young men across the major cities of America, and it certainly creates a ripple effect in our world. For 10 years, JPMorgan Chase and TFI have provided TFI Fellows with sustained mentorship, intensive academic support and educational opportunities across America, and internationally. No wonder TFI teams-up with Outward Bound to provide experiential leadership expeditions for Fellows– we are both invested in that ripple effect– we want to support emerging leaders of color, and we want to make the world a more compassionate and resilient place.
TFI has a lot in common with Gichigamiing too.
When you stand at the foot of that deep, cold lake, you experience awe and wonder. You are one pretty small person and it is one very big lake. Somehow the bigness of the lake invites you to put yourself in context. The water, the sky, the land and you. Things get simple and big. The water is clear and it is so cold–average temp of 40 degrees fahrenheit–it demands your attention. This is no Caribbean idyll, this is a big force of nature, and you are gonna stay awake for it. Gichigamiing challenges you, and invites you to figure out how you want to show up in the world– just like TFI… just like Outward Bound.
Gichigamiing is a terrific place for TFI Fellows to learn and grow.
Natural awe and wonder are part of every Outward Bound expedition. Nature is a powerful teacher, and Outward Bound enlists nature as a third instructor. We know nature can be a tool for equity, showing up the same way for everyone and “leveling the playing field.” Nature also creates great conditions for learning; it is sometimes predictable, and most often unpredictable. Nature’s students learn how to adapt, pivot and just plain cope. Mud, thunderstorms, mosquitos– nature doesn’t always cooperate, so you learn what you can control, and how you can show up in the moment. Nature is also an excellent catalyst for learning about yourself– who you are and who you want to be. And actual water provides a pretty powerful metaphor for that life-changing self-reflection.
Here’s an example:
The water is amazing here.
It looks like an endless line.
The waves sound so peaceful.
The layers of the horizon line are magical.
It’s the biggest ocean– I mean lake– I have ever seen.
The sparkles on the water from the sun are priceless.
The cloud streaks are right above the water.
These words call to mind George Morrison’s famous paintings of Gichigamiing. Morrison loved to paint the place where sky meets land– the author’s “endless” horizon line. Morrison’s art and this writer’s words speak to potential. Awe and wonder. There is so much possibility in this very big world.
This crystal clear written reflection comes from TFI Houston Fellow, Isaiah. Isaiah was in the first of 20 crews to go out in the field with VOBS this summer through our Twin Cities Center basecamp. From June through August, 200 young men of color will travel from cities across America to embrace challenge and adventure at the foot of the largest lake in the world. TFI Fellows will backpack the Superior Hiking Trail, up and down the ancient Sawtooth Range, to discover brotherhood, strength and purpose.
We can’t put a price on awe and wonder, or nature’s ability to connect us to ourselves and each other– as Isaiah discovered, our experiences in nature are “priceless.”
VOBS is humbled to host these emerging leaders and we are grateful to Outward Bound USA, TFI and JPMorgan Chase for making this leadership adventure possible.
Please join us in welcoming these courageous young leaders to Outward Bound this summer.