Grit – An Irritant or Highly Desirable?

Grit is an interesting word. The first definition in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is: “small, loose particles of stone or sand”. In this context, grit is usually considered an irritant and is not something we welcome in our eyes or in our shoes. The second definition describes something very different. “a firmness of mind or spirit, unyielding courage in the face of hardship.” In recent years, the term grit has become the buzzword as a highly desirable characteristic for young people entering top educational institutions, sports teams, and employment. Grit is the popular way of describing determination, bravery, resolve, and tenacity, in short, the perseverance to keep working toward a goal even when it is hard. Recently, I heard another word associated with grit, passion. I can see how they are connected because to really WANT to keep going, you have to truly care about your goal.

Throughout history, camps have placed a high value on grit and the process of practicing and building the belief in young people of “I can do hard things”. It’s not easy work to be gritty. It takes desire; the ability to ask for support and the willingness to learn; and the understanding that it’s ok to not succeed the first time and the confidence to try again. It helps to have supportive adults and peers that can encourage, coach, and celebrate successes. It also helps to have lots of opportunities to practice grit and camp has more than you can count.

Obvious practice ground is in our program. The chance to try something and work toward mastery is a part of every Camp Runoia activity. Another time grit is present is when it is wrapped up in a emotional challenge – a bit less tangible than succeeding in archery or riding., but oh so powerful. Last summer there was a girl who was very homesick but she wanted to love camp. Instead of going home or staying in camp unhappily, she drew on her courage and resolve to make friends and enjoy the fun. She discovered the duality that she could both miss her family, but also love camp. This fall she was concerned about being homesick again if she came back for another summer, but in the end, she decided to take that chance. This young girl has learned that she can do hard things, so even if she is homesick at some point she knows she has what it takes to get through it. This is grit.