We went to Rottnest recently for a day trip and it reminded me of countless hours spent on the island in my childhood. It was the place where I learnt to ride a bike, make phone calls to the mainland on pay-phones, buy the paper for Dad in the morning, purchase clothes at the surf shop, make lunch, dinners and breakfast, swim, surf, snorkel, be resilient, experiment, try (and fail), be scared and survive, get cold get hot, get tired and push on. I learnt to dig deep, have very sore quads after long bike rides around the island and to conquer fears. In many ways, it set me up very well for life as an adult.
I think these hours spent experiencing things with my brother built the foundations for the courage I now have in life, and the beginning of the ‘can-do’ attitude.
Talking to Roland recently he said that courage is the product of having a few key aspects in life under control. It’s sort of the pinnacle. He spent some time teaching children who were struggling in traditional schools because of dysfunctional family situations and they developed some interesting strategies. The formula for building resilience in these children began with finding which area they were strongest in and building from there.
Belinging. They need a sense of belonging. To a group, communities, club, anything.
Generosity. And importantly – opportunities to use it.
The order doesn’t matter, But if you can start by focusing on the strengths (mastery) and then try to form belonging by involving them in groups with likeminded people (belonging) or creating belonging in your own group with them, and then get them volunteering, or even just point out to them when they are helping someone or being useful (generosity) and then try to equip them with skills for Independence. I think independence is the hardest.
The problem for many people, and particularly the broken kids Roland was often dealing with, is that they have independence and nothing else. And it's not about having it, it's about feeling that you have it.
Maybe that is how our culture sees it, or maybe it is just an interesting insight from one man’s perspective, but the nurturing my brother provided me during those early years of trailing (and failing) gave me the courage to develop. To keep trialing. To keep pushing the boundaries. I don’t mean nurturing as in a pat on the back and a load of positive reinforcement about specific adventures. I just mean the feeling of being nurtured and belonging, in general, that makes you brave everywhere else. Maybe it is the knowledge that is you fail you’ll have support. Or maybe it is just that love helps to balance out other emotions. I’m sure there is some neuroscience behind it.
As Roly leaves for London for another 12 months away after just a month at home following 2 years in Vanuatu, I am sad to see him go. But it never matters how long we are apart. He is still my big brother.