Growing Veterans Peer Support Training (2)
Blog written by: Matt Henman
Note: This blog is Part 2 of a 6-Part Blog Series.
I wanted to share a bit about my experience with growing veterans and our time at “camp.” The trip started with the crew of us meeting up and it was like a group of old friends who had not seen each other in quite some time – excited to dive in. You know that feeling when you are picking up your best friend at the airport for a weekend of memories? That was the feeling from the start. As we headed up to the campground we had some of those bonding moments. One of our friends was not feeling so hot, we stopped got him to a bathroom and waited. In a moment of, hey man, you need a little quality rest, we dropped him off at the hotel and continued our journey. Listening to music, talking, and stopping at the gas station before camp to get some well needed snacks for the weekend.
As we got to camp, we were greeted by complete strangers, ready to open up the cabin and let us in. The campground was gorgeous and from the very beginning authentic relationships began to form. I’m not sure in my adult life, when the last time I was at a campground, staying at a cabin, on a lake with some amazing friends was. How often do we take the time to turn off the noise around us and just be in the moment? This is the beauty of some of these experiences. When you give yourself the opportunity to unplug and invest in real relationships with others, amazing things can happen, not only for your soul, but for me, the ability to regroup and really connect with people.
Our peer support training was excellent, and the stage was set. We went around the room with the instruction to share a part of our story with the group assembled. What happened over the next hours of the day was incredible! Not only was there a safe place for people to share a part of their story, but around the room we went and folks could share their whole story. People in that room felt safe enough to open up and share their hearts and souls with the others in that room, and it was a time I will never forget.
That evening we had some excellent down time, shared a good meal, and settled in by the bonfire. The sharing and conversations continued and together we dove in, organically, and began to grow closer. Like a band of brothers around the bonfire we were able to circle up, and listen to one another continue to explore what we had opened up in the hours before. It was a time of healing and a time to dig deep.
That final day, the bonds were formed, and the ending ‘graduation’ was a beautiful experience. We had the opportunity to celebrate the weekend, to acknowledge the work that had been done and continue to develop those bonds in real life. For me, the experience with this team of folks was an incredible weekend, but more importantly I learned a very important lesson. With your tribe, its ok to open up, to let people in, and in the path of life, we can find room for real relationships, and trust others.