From Sea to Shining Sea: The 2017 Tour Ends and a New Year Begins

January 18, 2018

“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.

The final leg of our extraordinary Francis tour circa 2017, wound up in the iconic city of San Francisco. As we drank in the spectacle of the City by the Bay, backlit by the vibrant play of the warm golden sun dipping into the iridescent blue of the deep cool Pacific, it was hard to imagine life without the indelible stamp of my visionary Cameroonian friends.

We flew down from Seattle earlier that day for our last “formal” event at Rancho San Antonio in Cupertino, a phenomenal retirement community nested in the hills of the Bay Area. The dynamic duo of Lynda Kaser and Nancy Kao rolled out the red carpet and hosted an educational lunch for Francis. Several dozen of their residents were also in attendance. Whenever I am in their community I feel like I’m surrounded by Silicon Valley pioneers – the residents give off an aura of intelligence and curiosity. The room was tastefully decorated with some African flora and fauna. Everything Lynda and Nancy set up is done with class, dignity, and fun! Our audience was appreciative, engaged and inquisitive. It was the perfect backdrop for our final formal presentation, one we have certainly perfected by this point.

Next, we set off for a late afternoon jaunt across town to the Front Porch community of Sunny View. We wanted this visit to show our appreciation for the generosity the Sunny View staff and residents have shown toward Francis. It was an afternoon of gratitude. Francis spoke eloquently to Sunny View about the project they had so graciously funded in Cameroon. He shared dozens of pictures and stories about the farming aid their donations delivered. The staff was particularly touched, having funded a significant portion of the dollars. They were thrilled to see the fruits of their gift.

The rest of the weekend was fun, frolic and reflection, as an early Monday morning flight beckoned Francis and Rosie back to Cameroon. But fun it was. We had dinner with old friends from many years ago when I worked and lived here. We enjoyed an elegant brunch in Oakland with the one and only Mary Furlong, an innovator in aging and technology before that category existed. We took a scenic trip through the majesty and elegance of Muir Woods, then scampered over to Muir Beach, where I rode on Francis’s back while Rosie blissfully played in her second ocean. We ate dinner in San Francisco and the next morning spent time in Fisherman’s Wharf. Our heads were whirring at the day by day, moment by moment adventures. But Francis, Rosie and I also had some soulful introspection amidst all our friends, as the magical journey we were on is not driven by a quest for tourist seductions (although we are good at that). We know, and people who know us do as well, this is a relationship and a series of journeys that is driven by the mission to elevate the lives of the villagers in Cameroon and enhance the lives of our elders in the US. It’s sheer magic.

While our 2017 journey comes to an end, we embrace the beginning of our 2018 journey and all the possibilities therein. The memories generated by three weeks on the road have a Foder’s Travel Guidebook feel to a certain extent, with monuments and landmarks of our great country etched into our minds. But the part of this journey that really matters and the momentum that propels us forward is the joy and passion emanating from Francis and Rosie and the reflections back from the generous and caring partners now joining us on the proverbial bus. Sure, it’s cool to see the White House, the Empire State Building and the Golden Gate Bridge, but the true inspiration came from Ann Doyle, Lynette Laudenburg, Kris Hansen, Walter Coffey, Jaques Thornton, Katie Sloan, Chris Crouch, Bill Bates, Wendy Kleppe, Lynda Kaser, Sally Plank, Shelley Wisnowski and the list could go on and on. All these people glow with the spark of Cameroon – a spark lit by Francis. These compassionate cohorts who have pledged to start their own projects, their own Dorothy York Senior Centers. Of course, there is no way of forecasting whether they will all come to fruition, life has a tendency to get in the way sometimes. If even half of them follow through thousands of lives will be forever changed! Walter Coffey and David Sprowl are executing the first cliff dive, heading out to Cameroon to help fund a nurse for the Dorothy York Center. How cool is that!

My own journey and path have been permanently altered by this magical man. Francis is like a huge lake, brimming with hope, optimism, passion and fearlessness. Somehow, I have wound up in this play, cast as the wide-eyed 10-year old boy who tosses rocks into the stillness of the lake. The ripples from the waves are ideas, projects and splashes of hope for the people in the Cameroonian villages. But the magic for the boy, and for anyone else who rides a ripple to its conclusion, is the solidarity you feel with the planet in opening your eyes to another world, another way of life. It evolves from an attitude of “let me help them” to “how can I grow from them.” I know Walter and David will experience this same transformation.

So, thanks for being along for the ride on this journey with me. There is plenty of room to join if you are so inclined. The size of the opportunities in the villages of Cameroon are as broad and deep as the endearing inflection of Francis’ guffaw. They never end and you miss them when they are gone! The “Northwest Corner” of his heart swells with gratitude toward the United States of America. In response, my own toast for 2018 is to honor the man, his work, and his people. Reach out to me at iN2L if you want to know how to climb on the bus. in the meantime, keep looking for your own Cameroon!