A WLL Friend…For Life
Recently we did a Beautiful Women interview on Dafna Michaelson, the founder of 5o in 52 Journey. Because her journey is so amazing and important to fellow Americans, we will be posting some of her accounts of meeting unsung heroes around the country. The following is one of those touching posts.Dèjá Vu By Dafna Michaelson August 19th, 2009
Landing in Philadelphia for Journey trip #33, I hopped into my car and set Betty (my GPS) to navigate me to Scranton. On the phone with my sister-in-law, I realized I’d been there before. You know that crazy Dèjá Vu feeling that washes over you? And then it hit me. Trip number 1, to Delaware, January 7th, 2009, I had rented my first car for my first trip on the Journey. I’ll never forget getting into that car and realizing, at 36, I had never rented a car on my own before. Emotions rushed in and the past 33 weeks flashed before my eyes.
The idea for this Journey started developing in May of 2008. My boyfriend, Michael, insisted against my wishes that we buy a lottery ticket. Buying lottery tickets bring up bad memories of a lifetime of playing the “What would you do if you won the lottery?” game and a lifetime of not winning. Nevertheless, I told him he could buy the ticket and I’d be happy to pray for him. And, like clockwork, he asked me what I’m going to do when we win. I was furious but shared my idea of an incredible trip I’d take around the country to all 50 states to meet people who were building community and taking action in their neighborhoods… No, we did not win the lottery. But we did realize the idea had merit. It was a plan.
Leading up to that day in January, I talked to anybody who would listen; almost unanimously they were intrigued and felt that it had the potential to greatly impact America. It was time for a committment. It meant leaving my job to start fundraising. And so I leaped.
As a newly unemployed woman in October of 2008, I raised about 6 thousand dollars, got on a plane, and left the country for 3.5 weeks. I returned to a crashed economy; the people who committed money to the Journey just could not give it anymore.
Close friends advised me to cancel. They were convincing, but I was determined. The Journey was a plan that would help the current state of the country proving that people could still take control of bad situations and offer hope by helping others in their own communities. I felt the Journey could elevate the American spirit.
I realized if I was going to ask others for money, I had to be willing to use mine too. With a solid work history since I was fourteen, I had, like much of the rest of America, a diminishing 401K. Slowly, in several distributions, I liquidated it to fund the Journey. Relief. I figured the economy would bounce back and I’d be able to make the Journey work as the viable non-profit venture I’d envisioned on paper; in the end, all would be well. I was still nervous – very nervous.
As December was ending, I had not yet booked a plane ticket and still not scheduled any interviews in Delaware. I was terrified and not sleeping. Finally, I lay in bed one night and told myself that I had to get excited, that I had to book a ticket, and that I had to reach out for nominations. I told myself I was going to do this thing even if it looked nothing like the original plan; and believe me, this looks almost nothing like the original plan. I slept that night.
Blood, Sweat, and Tears
The next morning in front of the mirror, I forced a smile and tried to get pumped up and as I brushed my teeth. I began to vomit and blood poured from my nose – lots of blood. I had no idea what was going on. Having a flair for the dramatic, I thought; wait, this is NOT how my story ends! This is supposed to be the beginning of my life! What the heck is going on?
It stopped; I cleaned the bathroom and called a doctor friend (as I found myself among the ranks of uninsured Americans), and he reassured me that it was likely a fluke and I’d be fine. He was right. I can only imagine that the months of excitement followed by the month of pure unadulterated tension had to flow out of my body in some way before I could fully embrace the Journey.
That day, I booked my ticket and started a full press effort to get nominations in Delaware – even going so far as to stop a car on a VERY busy intersection in Denver that had Delaware plates and asking them if they knew any community problem solvers there. Boarding the plane to Delaware I felt like a total failure with only one interview on the books. However, by the time the plane landed, I had five emails and multiple voice mails. Ten interviews later, I learned the truth of the Journey.
One Step at a Time
This is a faith walk. The people I am supposed to meet, I meet. The trips work out. I make great friends everywhere I go. I am having an impact on the lives and organizations of the people I meet and everywhere I go I learn a little bit more about me. In Delaware I made a great friend and never wanted to leave. I go through that every week, in every state.
As I sat in the car today, it all hit me – every emotion I have felt over these past 33 weeks and the knowledge that I have 18 weeks to go and I’m still not sure how we’ll pull it off. With the love and gratitude I have for supportive friends and family, excitement about new friendships, and the future challenge of creating a life-changing foundation that makes a difference in our country, it’s enough to make me want to choke up a little blood…
My Life Line
As I did in January, I visited my 91-year old grandmother on this trip to the state she and my grandfather had chosen to build their lives together. I’ll never forget that night in January, after my first day of the Journey, coming in at 11pm and eating the steak dinner which she had kept warm in the oven for 6 hours. She was nervous for me and insisted I eat a good meal that night. My grandmother wrapped me in her love and prayers; Nine months later, I only have 15 more states to go!
***Visit Dafna Michaelson at the 50 in 52 Journey blog or contact her at, 303-250-9584 to learn more about her life-changing adventure around the country. You may also leave her some love and encouragement in the comments.
It’s about YOUR community. It’s about collective CREATIVITY. It’s about changing OUR COUNTRY one American at a time. Get Inspired! www.50in52journey.com