Heart and soles: FHS grad will walk to Miami to support Haiti relief efforts
Sometime early March 27 Jordan Dibb will step out of his apartment near Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. He'll say good bye to friends and family, take one last look at his apartment building and start walking east. It'll be a while before he comes back.
He'll take Hennepin Avenue through downtown and follow Franklin across the river. He'll walk through St. Paul, then turn south. He'll pass through St. Paul Park and Cottage Grove and he'll cross the river into Wisconsin at Prescott. He'll walk and he'll walk and he'll walk.
By the time he's finished walking, some 100 days and more than 1,800 miles later, he will be in Miami. If things go as planned he will have met a lot of people, shared a lot of stories and raised more than $100,000 to support earthquake victims in Haiti.
It's a story about love, but it started with frustration.
Dibb graduated from Farmington High School in 2005 and from Hamline University in May of 2009. He accepted his diploma and left college excited to get a job and start his new life.
Then he discovered the reality of trying to find a job in a tight economy. He sent out resumes and heard nothing. On the rare occasions he could actually get an interview he'd be told he didn't have enough experience. By January, he estimated he'd sent out more than 1,200 resumes. Many were in his chosen field of sociology and psychology. Others were outside the field. He just wanted a job.
How bad was it? At one point Dibb applied for a job at a yogurt shop near his apartment. He went in for an interview. They thanked him for applying and told him they were looking for someone with at least two years of yogurt experience.
"That was just kind of a slap in the face," Dibb said.
These days, Dibb supports himself with help from his parents and his girlfriend and with a part-time job at a dog daycare. Basically, he picks up dog poop. It's not what he imagined as he was working his way through four years of college.
As the rejections mounted, Dibb got frustrated. He'd come back from job interviews and look at the big backpack and the walking shoes in his closet and think about just walking away from it all. An adventurer at heart, Dibb takes a 10-day solo trip in the Boundary Waters every summer. He grew up reading about explorers like Will Stieger and dreaming about an adventure of his own. Every time the idea came up, though, he thought of reasons to push it back down.
Then Jan. 12 came and an earthquake devastated Haiti. Eight days later, Dibb was at a birthday dinner with his family. He'd just come from another unsuccessful job interview and everyone was frustrated. That's when Dibb decided if he couldn't work for pay, he'd work for free. He was young and fit and had plenty of free time. He even speaks a little French. He figured he was well suited to help in the recovery effort.
So, Dibb made a list of 30 relief agencies and started calling to offer his services. The response he got back was familiar.
"How much experience do you have in disaster relief?"
By the time Dibb got to the last number on his list he was in a foul mood.
"My blood was boiling," he said.
He dialed the number, punched his way through the automated answering system and one last time offered his services. He got rejected, and in frustration asked if there was anything he could do to get to Haiti. After a couple of seconds the woman on the other end of the phone suggested he could walk. Then she hung up.
That's when Dibb looked over at his closet one more time and saw his shoes and backpack.
It took about 20 minutes for Dibb to convince his parents he wasn't crazy. Then he had to convince himself.
"I think I woke up the night after I announced it in a cold sweat," he said.
That feeling passed quickly, though, and Dibb has spent most of his time since getting things ready. He went back through his list of aid organizations to find a partner for his effort. He settled on a group called Action Against Hunger, he said, because he liked the fact they work on sustaining farmland and clean water rather than just disaster relief.
Dibb hopes to raise at least $100,000 for the organization. Action Against Hunger is in the process of setting up a fundraising page tied to Dibb's walk.
Planning the basics of his route was easy. He just put his destination into Google maps and choosing the walking option. There will be some fine tuning to do, but he's got a pretty good idea where he's going. He's assembled a web page for his walk (iwalkforlove.com) and he's set up accounts on Twitter and Facebook so people can track his efforts. His Facebook page drew more than 2,000 fans in its first week.
Dibb has been amazed at the kind of support he's gotten. Lord of Life Lutheran Church pastor Jamie Thompson invited Dibb to speak at the church, which Dibb grew up attending. Thompson is also helping find more churches along Dibb's route that will allow him to speak or put him up for the night. Members of the Farmington Rotary are connecting him with Rotary clubs along his route. He's gotten unsolicited e-mails from other long-distance walkers letting him know what to expect or how to plan.
Dibb didn't expect quite so much social interaction. When he first had the idea for the walk he imagined it would be a solitary effort. But he's embraced the crowd. His web page has a Train with Jordan section in case people want to come walk around the Minneapolis lakes with him, and a few people have shown up already.
"I've been blown away by the amount of support people have," Dibb said. "The only people I've really had to convince is my parents."
Dibb plans to announce on his web page when he expects to be in cities along the route and invite people there to walk with him as he passes through.
Dibb still has work to do. He walks seven miles or more every day to get in shape. He hopes to walk 20 miles a day when he's on the road. With a few days for rest he hopes to hit Miami July 4, 100 days after he leaves home.
He's looking forward to it. The trip might not be the kind of experience employers are looking for, but Dibb expects it to be an experience that is good for him and a whole lot of other people.
And it's a lot better than selling yogurt.