I had the idea for Mission Memphis long before I had it planned, shared it, or knew its name. In that regard, Volunteer Bound is very similar. A week ago, all I had was an idea, a few believers, and a plane ticket to Portland.
As I write this, I’ve just settled into Portland and I’ll be leaving here in less than 36 hours, which makes this the longest stop on our volunteer adventure.
I’m so excited to be making this trip with Rebekah Kioschos, one of my very favorite people. Rebekah (who will blush when she reads this) is one of those people who can fill a whole house with light and happiness. Imagine what she can do to a small car! Rebekah is bringing her dog Cornelius as our official mascot and the three of us will be off on our great adventure tomorrow morning.
Our gracious hosts in Portland, the Storm Family, have put us up in their wonderful home. It’s a little crazy – two in-laws, two parents, three dogs, four boys, Rebekah, me and a partridge in a pear tree, but it’s full of energy and warmth compared to the damp and foggy Portland. I just told Rebekah that I’m sad to leave this incredible family and this really comfortable bed. Here’s part of the adventure: right now, I don’t know where I’ll be sleeping tomorrow night. Here’s the thing – I don’t know where we’ll be sleeping, but I know that we will have a warm bed in a safe place, which makes us more fortunate than many in our country.
Until now, Memphis has been my bubble and even within Memphis, I stretched way beyond my comfort zone with the hopes that I could create positive change. As an introvert, it’s exhausting to spend 30 days in a row at a different place, with a group of strangers, doing something I’ve never done before. With that in mind, it is simply amazing what transpired. Each new place became familiar. Now when I drive past one of these places, it’s no longer strange and foreign. I’ve learned so much about my city. The group of strangers I met became friends and familiar faces. But most importantly, my own stereotypes and reservations are steadily melting away.
I have been trying to predict what this trip will hold, and again, I’m totally out of my comfort zone. I’m away from home in December and I really hate the cold. Apparently we’ll need snow chains for Idaho, which is uncharted territory when you grow up in the South. Most days include volunteering, every day includes drive time and each journey means talking to new people, going new places and having your beliefs challenged. Here’s something important that I’ve learned: All the good stuff happens outside your comfort zone.
The incredible and inspiring thing is that everyone who learns about the project wants to talk about it, share their volunteer experiences, and follow along on the journey. Even in the airport, someone asked why I was going to Portland and as I was explaining the trip, I realized that everyone around us was listening.
Most people ask if I’m doing this as a school project. When I say no, they ask where I’m working and who I’m doing this project for. I tell people that I believe this is important and I’m just finding a way to make it happen. I explain that I’m doing this project for everyone so that every potential volunteer will be inspired to give back and change the community. We need to be reinvigorated and to care about something beyond our own lives. Because here’s the thing – this project is not about me. It’s about you.