By Chris Brown
Although I am the newest team member of the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation, I think it’s safe to say that I shared many of the same emotions about this trip as my fellow tour mates – from excitement to anxiety to everything in between.
My excitement about the trip was pretty on par with the rest of the team (with the exception of perhaps Jake, who was absolutely elated to be sleeping in a 2’x2’x8’ bunk for a week) and I have never been one to shy away from a challenge, particularly one that furthers a good cause.
On the other hand, my anxiety about the trip may have been a little greater than everyone else’s and entirely different in nature. To be clear, I joined the team a little over three weeks before the tour bus rolled out of Chicago and this trip would essentially be my “trial by fire.” Not only did I need to be sure that we were checking all the PR boxes and that I was surpassing expectations, but I had to do so while simultaneously building relationships with my new colleagues… on a tour bus.
But, like I said, I love a good challenge. Instead of leaving Chicago with the rest of the team, I “leapfrogged” ahead to scout out the stops that we would be making and I met the team in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.
After our volunteer event that afternoon, we had dinner with Chef David Robinson from Culinary Command and he spoke about the remarkable work that he was doing with veterans, whether wounded, retired or active. He spoke with such passion and emotion about the real change he could see in the lives of these men and women – men and women that had given so much for our country – and all because someone was willing to take a chance and encourage them. It was hard to not be captivated by the stories he shared and, by the end of dinner, I realized that my anxieties about the trip had disappeared. I knew that this was going to be an amazing week.
We left Salt Lake City around midnight and by the time I woke up the next morning, I felt right at home with the rest of the team (it really is remarkable what a shared experience, like a volunteer event, can do for team building!).
The next stop on our journey was the Page Regional Domestic Violence Shelter in Page, AZ, where the most unexpected thing happened. As we arrived at the shelter, a Navajo medicine man was in the process of blessing the shelter and asked if he could also give us a blessing. This was something entirely new to me, however it was a truly remarkable experience. Here we are, on a cross-country mission to give, and we are being given a precious gift. This was what really struck home. These people have so little, yet they are so generous with everything they have and they want to give back. It’s in their very makeup. As with Chef Robinson, the passion and conviction that these “givers” showed was astounding and truly genuine.
As we left Page, I began to notice a trend in the people that we met: passion. This trend held true throughout the remainder of the trip – even at the local eateries and non-charity stops we made. This country is full of amazing people that are passionate, passionate about paying it forward and passionate about giving back.
I will echo my fellow Giving Tour “givers” in saying that if you have a chance to travel the country by car and experience the amazing people that are what make this country so great, do it. You’ll be surprised by the impact it can have on you. It certainly has changed all of us.