Falling Creek provides a community that develops character for campers and staff alike. When one takes a deeper look, one can see the set of values that are shared by members of the Falling Creek community. It is the Falling Creek Code. It has always been here, however, over the summers of 2010 and 2011 we put words to it, introduced it, and intentionally weaved it into all aspects of daily camp life.
The Falling Creek Code is made up of Warrior Spirit, Positive Attitude, Servant’s Heart, and Moral Compass. All of these are grand topics and one might ask, “How do you teach warrior spirit, and more importantly, how do know when you have the spirit of a warrior?” Falling Creek is in the unique setting to give the campers an education that is more than books and papers, it allows us to build character. We have the ability to teach it every day that a camper is part of our community.
A warrior’s spirit. When I think of warriors, I see knights riding off to battle. They have courage, perseverance, and an outlook on life that pushes one to do your best. At Falling Creek I see these items daily. I see young men working hard to achieve a time on the buoy course which allows them to earn a coveted spot on the Lower Green Trip (doing your best). I see young men looking at a 400-foot cliff and having the courage to take the first step! I see young men that will fail many times before they succeed, thus learning how to handle both the failure and the joy of success.
This past Sunday I had the pleasure of paddling with a current Falling Creek camper and a long-time camper/staff member, Taylor Barker. We paddled at the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte. During our time on the water we caught eddies, surfed waves, punched holes and ran rapids that pushed us both mentally and physically. Near the end of the day, I saw a Warrior’s Spirit.
After a couple of runs through the pushy water of the M-Wave rapid, the group’s confidence was high. Seeing the rapid, one would understand why. Let me paint you a picture of M-Wave. It is a wall of water 6-ish feet tall and about 20-feet wide with a large breaking wave on the top that wants to flip you and hold you at the bottom. Now, if it was just that one series of moves it would be no big deal. However, directly below M-Wave you have several hundred yards of rapids, waves, and holes before you have a chance catch your breath, thus increasing the intimidation factor of the notorious M-Wave.
After one run that was extremely exciting, the camper arrived in the eddy and asked Taylor and I if he could walk back up and do it again, as his performance was below his personal best. Sure! We started to climb out of our boats and he said, “I would like to do it on my own. Will you wait in this eddy for me?” Sure! After ten minutes or so of hiking back up stream and getting set in the boat, we saw a green helmet and red boat line up to punch through M-Wave! The boat was upright and in control. Coming off of the crest of the wave, he was driving the boat hard to the left to avoid the next hole. He rounded the hole and was punching the next series of waves lining up to catch the eddy!
We went on to run that series of rapids several more times, and with each successful run the warrior was present! To answer my original question of how do you teach a Warrior Spirit: you put young men in a setting that requires courage, doing your best, and perseverance. As we have seen over the years, a young man with character is a young man that will rise to meet the challenge at hand.