I met Michael McCarthy last year at the Headwater's Gathering at the Kimbercote Farm, ON. We connected and became friends right away through our love for all things nature and working with kids. That following summer, I had the honour to work along with Micheal at The P.I.N.E. Project. Michael is a natural mentor and nature educator for our youth, engaging them with his enthusiasm and patience. I learned a lot from him and continue to do so. The life skills learned are usually hidden with the type of mentoring Michael does, and it is through example that the true lessons are taught.
Here is a story of a time when Michael taught a valuable lesson about failure, working with the Pine River Institute. I will let him tell you the rest of the story....
A True Story told by Michael McCarthy
The success in failure, or, how to celebrate when things don't go as planned.
On Thursday night I spent an hour preparing a beautiful fire and getting my bow drill kit prepped. This was for a nighttime bonfire for 50 grade 6/7 students who were on a 3 day school trip at Mansfield outdoor centre.
When the time came, I led them all to the unlit bonfire and proceeded to perform a most spirited and dramatic telling of how coyote stole fire. I rocked it and had the kids in the palm of my hand. I moved to my bow drill kit, getting one of the kids to shine a light on me. I have done this hundreds of times. First try - no coal. Second try - just a thin wisp of smoke. I ask the kids to look up and note the fog covering the stars and how the dampness would impede the lighting. 8 mins go by. Kids were chanting my name, telling me not to quit. I finally put the bow down, sweat pouring off my face, my body spent. I almost cried. I lit some birch bark with a lighter and we gave thanks for fire together.
I thought I had failed them and lost my status as the 'bush-man'.
One of the teachers came up afterwards and thanked me for showing them how to try my best and for modeling that its okay to fail. She said that she noticed how much the boys looked up to me and how failing really gave them a great gift: being a man means not being perfect, and being humble enough to dance with the great mystery of life - where things don't always go as planned.
Letting these words in, I really had to move past my bruised ego and rest in the fact that coyote had been present all along, teaching me that failure can contain hidden jewels - but only if my heart is receptive enough to see.
It is through these types of teachings and role modeling that our youth are taught to be confident with who they are, to take risks, fail and learn. Through programs at Nature's Backpack, our youth are giving opportunities to do just that. www.naturesbackpack.ca