The Well Within

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By Jake Vermillion

 

There’s a place deep within each of us where the passions that push us to greatness, to fragility, to one another, stir. It’s not so much a place to go, as it is a place to draw from—like the feeling of a moment lost to time, or the memory of a loved one.

Fear hangs over this place like a fog, clouding our vision as we struggle to peer through the haze for a glimpse at our deepest desires—to be known, to make a difference, to play part in something greater than ourselves.

Over the past 18 months, I’ve found it takes courage to stumble through this fog; conviction to persist toward the water’s edge through the fading light; and community to maneuver the craggy narrows circling the well within.

Courage. Conviction. Community.

These are the things that have allowed me—and so many others—to draw from the well, and to experience the joy that flows from being known, making a difference, and playing part in something greater through Fit For Hope.

I haven’t always had these things. I still don’t. They ebb and flow, much like the waters from which they stream; but that’s what makes having them—even just for a while—so beautiful, so meaningful, so empowering.

I hate the days when they recede into the distance. But, when they do, I have a constellation of peers to look to for guidance, inspiration, and assurance.

18 months ago, my journey to the well within began with a challenge: to get up off my lazy behind and do something not just for myself, but for someone else—to bike 100 miles in a day for women trafficked into sexual slavery.

Needless to say, when confronted with the reality of human trafficking, of the pervasiveness of sexual exploitation, and the horrors of modern-day slavery, I was compelled to accept the challenge—to push my body past its admittedly shallow limits in hopes of raising awareness of and resources for the fight against this incredible injustice.

For months, I emptied myself on the bike—painstakingly whittling my asthmatic frame into the hollowed-out shell of an athlete left gasping for breath, face-up, on the sunlit grass (there’s video to prove it, by the way, at https://youtu.be/a6jkuOT29Uc?t=68).

With time, the novelty of simply learning to drawing from the well fathered a need to do so again and again. Parsing the waters became an obsession—driving me deeper within, where the mar of my ambition began to slowly strengthen the mettle of my ability.

With each turn of the pedals, the miles melted into one another, softening the edges of the trial cresting the horizon. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and longed for it, eager to escape the darkness but dreading the stinging discomfort I knew would accompany re-adjusting to a world bathed in brilliance.

Reflecting upon it now, I can appreciate the fear I wallowed in leading up to the day of proving. But the hardness I had bought with a thousand miles paid in sweat dealt its dividends—lifting the weight of a venture unfulfilled as I crossed the finish line at Joachim St. and Dolphin Ave.

Ducking into a back alley, away from the noise of celebratory beers and finisher photos, I stopped pedaling for the first time in what felt like an eternity to savor the relief of knowing I’d dispensed with a second finish line—the only finish line that had ever truly mattered: playing a part in restoring freedom and dignity to the imprisoned, anguished, and abused.

And yet, I wouldn’t even recognize the true impact of crossing that second finish line until some months later when the workers meeting the needs of these women revealed that the amount my colleagues and I had raised—thanks to the incomprehensible generosity of our supporters and partners—was the exact amount needed to fulfill their dream of opening an emergency shelter.

In that moment, the gravity of this endeavor—to run, or bike, or swim for something greater—crushed me. What grace that the pursuit of something so fleeting as fitness would leave an enduring impact on those desperate to have their wounds healed and hope renewed.

That day lives long in my memory. So much so that I’m now partnered with other hard men and women who share the same commitment to visit the well again and again—to suffer through yet another ride or run so that others might not have to bear far greater burdens alone.

As a founding member of Fit For Hope, I’ve been fortunate to witness the extraordinary courage of others’ willingness to test the limits of empathy, fumble about in the muddy depths of humility, and push against the bounds of selflessness—all for a chance to behold the joy that comes with experiencing the transformative power of true compassion.

From running a sub-3 hour marathon to house families affected by Hurricane Michael, to exercising for the first time in 10 years to help a single mom provide for her kids, to biking further than ever before to care for victims of domestic abuse, this constellation of active and aspiring athletes has demonstrated the common will within each of us to pursue purpose through pain, endurance over apathy, and others above self.

18 months ago, that friend who challenged me to visit the well within, to fight through the fear of truly knowing myself and to live in alignment with the deepest desires of my heart, paid me a far greater favor than I could ever have imagined.

Let me pay the favor forward.

If you long to experience something so meaningful it’s actually gratifying to empty yourself in pursuit of it; if you long to be counted one amongst thousands working toward a common, selfless aim; if you long to know the fulfillment that comes with helping to redeem others’ hopelessness: take the challenge.

Each of us has what we need to draw from the well, the only question is: will you?

Get started today by finding your courage, living your convictions, and multiplying your community at fitforhope.com.