I returned yesterday from a three day adventure I won’t soon forget. I was asked to document nearly 300 kids between the ages of 14 and 18, dressed in pioneer clothing, as they pulled handcarts over 23 miles of mud, swamp, heat, and rain. I met a great many amazing people involved in this at all different levels – and I will be blogging about many of my impressions in the coming days.
The Trek was set up as “families”. Each kid was assigned to a “ma” and “pa” who were in charge of keeping things organized, the kids safe, and the general procession moving forward. Each family ranged in size from 8 to 10 people including ma and pa. Each family was given a handcart to carry all of their clothing, tents, sleeping gear, etc. Food was brought in at prearranged locations to feed the 27 handcart families.
Because I needed electricity frequently, I was associated with the support staff a great deal back at the lodge where food was prepared and taken to the rendezvous points. Today I’m going to talk a little about what I saw as I associated with these great people.
First of all you should know, nobody got paid. This was a completely volunteer effort.
The second thing I think you should know is when you are feeding that many people three times a day, the work never stops. Ever!
There were 10 of them or so working to feed the handcart company. And their day would go a little something like this.
Up at 4:30 to hand cut fruit for breakfast. I asked why not just used canned fruit, they replied that it’s “just better” when it’s fresh. So they were up before the sun to provide quality fresh fruit for the trekkers.
Out the door by 6:15 with tables, food, cooking stoves, utensils, the works in two vehicles with all the people piled in front to take breakfast out. Set up the tables and 8 buffet lines for 300 hungry people to move through (trek rule is women go first, an amazing and humbling sight to watch teenage men politely stand by while the women went through the line first). As the food disappeared this crew started cleaning up and loading back into the trucks.
Back to the lodge. Four would start doing dishes (by hand) while the other 4 or 5 would start cooking lunch.
They would cook and prepare lunch and have it together just in time to go – getting updates from the trek via walkie talkie so they knew how fast the trek was moving.
Take lunch out, come back, clean and cook dinner. Take dinner out, come back and clean it up while three or four drove an hour into town to buy the fresh food needed for the next day. Everyone falls into bed about midnight to get up at 4:30 am and start it all over again.
I don’t even know all of their names – here are a few things that I remember about these great people.
This is Gayleen and she was always happy. I talked to her for the first time on the road back from a lunch she had just served. It had been decided that it would be fun to serve lunch from the back of handcarts, and there she was pulling a handcart full of left over food. She was smiling! Walking along on so little sleep, hauling this food in a handcart. I stopped and talked to her. She was so happy for what a beautiful day it was.
This is Earl. The guy just never stopped. He was in charge of all the food, the man with the walkie talkie, and completely unflappable. No matter what difficulty arose, he was easy going and rolling with it in a casual and fun way. Great guy.
This is Ron. He’s a project manager at ATK and had taken days off to be a part of this. Saturday Ron was contemplating taking the cooking gear to lunch so that he could toast the buns for the pulled pork barbeque sandwiches. 300 people, 600 buns, and he was considering toasting the buns. Why? Because sandwiches are better on toasted buns for him, and he wanted to extend something he enjoyed to 300 people he was serving. Remarkable. (toasted buns didn’t happen, Ron realized that with wind and rain and sheer numbers it might just be better to eat a cold bun on trek.)
I have no idea what his name is. I hardly ever saw him. He was always outside cooking. For what seemed like 18 hours a day, this guy was manning the stoves, or helping haul the food to the trek. I never got a chance to even speak with him, but had to take his photo because he just worked so hard!
This is Ranae. We spoke a lot. She’s a designer and an artist too. She’s Earl’s wife. I teased her that she got volunteered by marriage, and she quickly came back and told me that she wouldn’t trade being on trek for anything.
She was tireless. While we were greeting the trekkers at a celebration (when they returned to go home) she was in the lodge baking fresh bread for all of us. To come into the lodge to start cleaning to return home, and be greeted by this great lady cutting hot bread she had made for us… what can I even say? She’s got to be exhausted at that point, but still thinking of others first.
A gentle spirit, and an empathetic listener. I’m glad we had a few minutes to connect.
I think this is Tom. Tom had a giant truck (Ford F350) and a giant trailer. He was the guy that would drive supplies in and drop them on the trail for the trekkers, and he was the last one to leave any site the trek had stopped at. Tom was the garbage man.
He would help clean up, throw all of the garbage bags in his trailer, and bring them back to the lodge. I know he did much more than that – but it was out of my circle of observation. Look at him in this photo. He was like this the entire time. Happy to be there and working make this trek a success.
Can you see why I admire these people? Not only did they do all of this in the service of people they didn’t really know, they were cheerful and happy. I don’t think I heard one complaint the entire three days I was around them. They wanted to deliver great service and quality food, and were happy to do it. They are amazing people that I wish I could have gotten to know better.
I can feel their examples in my heart. Watching them for three days left me wanting to be a better person and do more for those around me. God bless these amazing people for the work they did on other’s behalf.