St Lou IS, Big River (Day Forty-Four & Forty Five)
His friends call him ‘Soup’, but it’s not because he’s tomato-based or chunky. His nickname is in reference to his surname – Campbell. When Mark Campbell was in Seattle in support of the Team Jesse kickoff party in April, some irony took place. He defined a word for me that I’d heard thrown around. ‘So…what exactly is a shlubb?’, I had asked no one in particular. Soup jumped all over the question. ‘A shlubb, my friend’, he explained, ‘is someone who is content to do the minimal amount of effort when going about something. He sees no benefit of quality in the big picture, and he just in general does a shoddy job’. Immediately, I had images of shlubbs; the one I remember most was a faceless person who has shown up late with a giant stain on the front of his shirt, unprepared for whatever they were there to do and quick to be calculating to volunteer for whatever job was easiest. Shlubb. The irony is that even though he defined the word for me, Mark ‘Soup’ Campbell is anything but a shlubb, and our experience in St Louis shows that clearly.
We knew that Soup had some contacts and friend in St. Louis, and that they were people he deemed worthy and capable. But…if I had a nickel for everyone that’s been referenced as a ‘good guy’ that was actually, in the end a shlubb, I’d be a very wealthy man. What Soup did for the Team Jesse Foundation was unbelievable. If St. Louis could be likened to a bonfire, it’s fair to say that Soup procured the kindling, and personally took the time to strategically place it where it needed to go. Then, he kept coming back to blow air on it, add bigger pieces and create embers. For all I know, he threw some gasoline on the thing, because St. Louis was a tremendous realization of opportunity.
The community aspects of St. Louis were amazing. While there are waaaay too many events, happenings and acts of kindness and appreciation to name, I can say that there were A) five interactions with the police departments, whether it was in the form of escorts through high-traffic areas or helicopter rides; B) Four engagments with media; two radio shows and two TV appearances, one of them live with a big-time anchor, Kay Quinn, C) six unique, random acts of unexpected, ridiculous hospitality and D) one formal Declaration from the Mayor’s office. I really can’t say enough about our experience in St. Louis, and what’s great is what all of this could mean for the Foundation. While the fundraising and community-building aspects were very successful in St Louis, it’s really the fact that its going to set a precedent for what we can accomplish in the other major markets. We have a US Attorney that wants to see us succeed. Kay Quinn took a sincere interest in Kevin’s story, and the greatness of his legend was not lost on her. Yeah, I think that she just may know some people. We met a guy – randomly – at the fundraiser. He just happened to be there, as opposed to showing up for it. He had somehow missed the media blitz, and yet, there he was. His name is Ed Shultz, and he is still helping us two towns later. He came to see us off and is scheming with Kevin to throw some follow-on events. Ed Shultz has woken us up to the idea of the power of the people and reminded us of the care created by community.
And it all started with guy named Soup.
Big River (Day Forty-Five)
When we arrived at our first SAG stop, I was able to come out with my secret. By then, the police escorts only had a few miles left before dropping us off on Route 3, deep in Illinois; the media crew would, therefore, continue on to the next stop instead of following us. Finally, we were far enough from the border that we were getting fewer and fewer honks, waves, shout-outs and fist-pumps. Before I tell YOU about the secret, I’ll start at the beginning.
We left from our hotel with a police escort, but before we left, Kevin addressed the crowd that had gathered to see us off. Some of them had not met each other, and I took special joy to see people united for our cause and making new friends/creating new community with those that they would be able to know moving forward. It’s always a beautiful thing. This was no different, and young and mature came out to wish us well and help in any way that they could. It was impossible even thank them; they would let us. Instead, they insisted that they were there to support us and they just wanted to know how they could do so. It would be really tough to ever let these kinds of people down. Kevin addressed the group prior to us pulling out and had to stop several times because of getting choked up. That’s a new one for us, St Louis.
So, we pulled away to visit the resting place of a young marine who lost his life in February, 2007. His name was Matthew, and he was just 21 years old at the time of his death. We left him a Team Jesse bracelet and it was amongst the Bud Light, Old Granddad, and flowers that were already there, and placed respectfully; his friends had been there recently, it seemed.
We pulled away with our second escort of the day, and this one would take us all the way to the border. As we approached Illinois (right on the freeway, four squad cars managing the escort transfer), it was exciting to think about the reality of entering our seventh state. As we passed the sign, though, and rose to the top of the bridge, state lines ceased to matter. When beholding the spectacle below, how could they? The Mississippi is a wonder into itself. It’s a vast, powerful legendary body that churns mercilessly. I’d always imagined it as a quaint, lazy river, but that’s not what we saw. The Mississippi is no joking matter, and it’s a place to take lightly. I wouldn’t, say, float down it in an inner-tube or go dancin’ around in a speedo here. It’s a dark, swirling broad wonder that doesn’t seem very forgiving, even though its muddy rush is beautiful. The current was kicking up whitecaps and it made me think about the challenges that must have come from taking advantage of its commercial allowances over the years.
Anyway, it was a great distraction for me as we struggled through and made it to the first SAG stop. At the stop, I told Kevin and Mama Bear about my ‘issues’. You see, I had not been able to keep any food in my stomach since the night before. It was very unpleasant, so I’ll spare you the details, but let me just say that even water went right through me and I was feeling like garbage, or worse, even right out of the gates. But, if I had let anyone know, especially Mama Bear, but including everyone, they would have put me on lockdown and not allowed me to ride. It was going to be a scorcher (I know, what’s new, right?) with 80 percent humidity and a heat index of 110. If they had known that I was in that kind of condition, it would’ve been a ‘No-Go’. So, I just went with it. It was at mile 28 when we got to have our first SAG stop; I was absolutely miserable. To prevent any unfortunate episodes, I didn’t drink anything. So, when I came out with my situation, Mama Bear started feeding me potato chips; this was right after Kevin gave me some prescription strength/military grade Imodium/anti-diarrheic tabs. The kind that just have to work, and damn the consequences for your stomach. The good news is that it worked well enough and I was able to drink water and Gatorade with Nuun. And a few crackers. Whatever stomach flu or food poisoning I’d gotten stopped giving me that ‘bubbleguts’ feeling, and I was able to begin to recover. Unfortunately, it was an uphill battle in the heat and humidity.
We were suddenly in some rural areas again, and what I remember of them was very beautiful. Lots of cornfields and wheat. Open spaces that smelled of the country and not in a manure-influenced way, but just in a clean, open kind of way. Cut grass and the like. If it weren’t for my extreme dehydration caused by my issues, it would have been great. I think it was still great, actually, it’s just that I don’t remember a lot of it. Did I mention that it was hot?
Just before Kevin’s tire exploded at mile 55, he had been complaining about a headache. The heat was taking its toll, for sure.
When we finally made it to the hotel, I opened my door and collapsed. Kevin woke me up for dinner and a few gallons of water, after which I went back and collapsed again. But, my dreams were good and I realized that I would definitely be going back to St Louis one day.
Mostly, I realized, once again, that it’s all about the people. For all of us, and for the opportunity for any of us, it’s all about the people.
For the Families of the Fallen…To the Limit!
Care Creates Community,