One glimpse at his slumped shoulders and I knew my attempt to encourage him to make friends had backfired. His lip trembled and before burying his head into my chest, he blurted out between tears, “He doesn’t want to play with me.”

Not only do I viscerally feel his personal rejection as my own, but all of my personal experiences of rejection well up– the time I tried to kiss a guy and he turned away, the time I had asked a good friend to read a draft of my book and she said no. I pull him toward me, hugging my four-year old close, with a fierce need to protect him.

I whisper in his ear all of the things. The little boy is probably just tired and wants to play alone. That he’s a good boy and other kids want to play with him. That it’s scary to put yourself out there again, but the only thing to do is ask someone else.

Twenty minutes later, I’m sitting on the grass and he’s playing with a gang of kids –racing down the hill and comparing grass stains. He’s beaming with the abiding pleasure of belonging, and I’m smiling, relieved that he’s happy, grateful for his growing resilience.tag2

It brings to mind a conversation I recently had with Michael Brown, the director of Mountain Sun School. The school’s core mission includes age-appropriate exploration of the outdoors, starting with short hikes for the preschoolers and culminating with multi-night backpacking trips for the upper elementary students.

Michael told me that creating a central core is fundamental to kids feeling inspired to take the requisite risks that lead to growth. He explains that Mountain Sun cultivates a core safe space and challenges students to go explore beyond preconceived limits, whether academically, creatively, or in the outdoors. The students come back and debrief with their teachers.

As a writer, I appreciate the process – go explore, stretch, take risks and then fold it into your narrative. Repeat.

tag1

To prevent tuition from becoming out of reach for some families, the school hosts fundraisers, its largest is an obstacle course race this coming Saturday, September 24, 2016 at the Brevard Music Center. Consistent with the school’s philosophy of preparing an environment that inspires, two courses nestled between mountains will lead participants through meadows and ponds.

Transylvania Adventure Games or TAG includes vendors, food trucks, face painting, live music and more. This year boasts two courses. The main obstacle course will be 2.5 miles and include mental and physical challenges, including tunnels, rope webs, memory tests, walls to climb, beams to walk, and a water feature. Gift certificates will be presented for the top three finishes in the competitive category.  There will also be a mini course, and the entire event meant to be inclusive, where participants can tailor the challenge.

If you’re looking for a great way to kick-off your weekend in Western North Carolina, consider challenging yourself and remember, we become what we practice. By facing obstacles and staying present, we evolve into the strongest and best versions of ourselves.

To learn more about this TAG, please visit tagracesonline.com.