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How To Be a Revolutionary

The national grasslands of North Dakota
Just relax and breathe a bit. There are no warnings, strange stories, or odd questions to begin these last few paragraphs in the US Trek. There are no tales of corruption or detailed lessons. There is just this: a friendly chat with a dash of heart.

A little over a year ago, I had a glorious day. I was driving through the flat salt marshes of southern Florida with my windows rolled down. The sun-drenched air was blowing through my truck and I remember my arms were shaking, my eyes wet with emotion at having just discovered The Odyssey. Because of that discovery, I remember imagining a very bright future for all of us and I remember feeling hope.


Breathe deep the air of the wild

Having since joined The Odyssey and traveled the U.S. with the trek team, I am sitting here now amidst the green hills of San Francisco struggling to put a cap on this experience. It is quite a bit harder than you may think.

In the past four months, the trekkers have reached the farthest four corners of the contiguous U.S. We have slid off of icy Colorado highways and had to sleep in snow banks. We have driven all night to party at Mardi Gras. We have fallen off of mountains and almost landed in rivers. We have seen alligator wrestling. We have slept with flying cockroaches. We have been inside the healing sound chambers of the giant stone pyramid. We have been surrounded by police at the vice presidents house. We have been dropped into the 1800's where we have met men who still think like masters and slaves. We have bought a dog and we have experienced ecstatic beauty.

And through the Badlands in South Dakota
Throughout it all we have met people who in the course of changing their own lives have created revolutions in our world. Mike Smith was sitting on his back porch with a friend when he had an idea that would grow to become the largest community-based art project in the world. Robert Egger was a nightclub owner who opened a self-sustaining food rescue at the D.C. central kitchen. Dolores Huerta was a single mother of eleven who put all of her children through college and started a revolution amongst Mexican migrant workers. Roger and Steve are a gay couple, who in their adoption of Lucas, are broadening the definition of the family unit in America. Elisabeth Eckford, who along with eight other young black Arkansans, stood up to fight desegregation and became a symbol for the civil rights movement in America.

Across the Tetons in Wyoming
They seem like larger than life people with some unbelievable stories, but if you speak with them directly they will tell you that they are just normal, everyday people. They will also remind you that revolutions do not just happen because of one person. They first start out with individuals like you and me who stand up, speak out, and become active participants in the creation of their own fate. They start with honesty and communication. They start with opening your eyes and becoming aware.

You can't cartweel in 4 feet of snow!
This past February, I remember emerging from the basement of the Carnegie Library and looking out onto the hills of Pittsburgh after having just studied about the largest armed labor revolt in the US history. Something happened to me then. As I looked up at the houses scattered on the hills, I saw a part of the history of the U.S. labor movement etched into the residential landscape of western Pennsylvania. It was one of the few times in my life when I felt a palpable sense of history. I became aware that history is alive. It breathes in the lives of the people we meet and introduces itself to us everyday. Walking away from this trek, then, is not going to involve leaving something behind but rather entering into a new world that is brushed with history and rich with possibility.

Cartwheeling through Miami Beach
If they have done anything over the past two semesters, the voices we have heard and the stories that we have shared have shown that there is still a lot of change to be made in the U.S. And if change starts with awareness, then being a part of The Odyssey has been a big step in the right direction.

How can we continue forward on this path toward change? To move forward, I imagine we have to allow this awareness of our world to create a revolution in us. We must be patient enough with ourselves to approach our days with the knowledge that there is more to do with the freedoms that we enjoy.

Is there a pill Stephen can take to stop cartwheeling?
Before I joined the team, I remember being asked "What is it that gets you up in the morning?" What is it that makes you stand up and tackle a day when you just want to close your eyes for a little while longer? When I answered that question a year ago, I said it was my passion for the extraordinary, but I now know that it is something quite different that pulls me awake. It is faith. It is faith that we can find a space for peace in our lives. It is faith that even though there is so much going on in our world -- mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally -- there is a center that we can fall back into to feel solid and whole.

You, like most of the people we have met on the trek, can be a revolutionary in the way you live your life, in the way you listen to people and let their stories touch you and in the way you let others' lives be touched by yours. Live honestly, calmly, and soundly from the heart.

How do you do that? For starters, you reread the first few words of this, my last dispatch -- just relax and breathe.

Your ever cart-wheeling,


Please email me at: stephen@ustrek.org


Links to Other Dispatches

Rebecca - Learning about life by living it - with gusto!
Daphne - The Odyssey Trek: A cult of the BEST kind!
Irene - Baby, I was born to run (all over this country)
Jennifer - To America the beautiful and the friendly
Neda - So what exactly is a "trekker" anyway?
Nick - Taking the road less traveled
Stephanie - Make the Trek part of who you are