Sunday, January 2, 2011
(Feature) DAFNA MICHAELSON: Her Journey To All 50 States and Beyond
by Cyrus Webb
In 2009 Dafna Michaelson gained worldwide attention for her decision to visit all 50 states talking with ordinary individuals who were making a difference. The Denver, Colorado resident wanted to shine a light on the good that was taking place all around us that doesn't always rise to the level of media attention as the negative stories we hear so much about. The project was called the 50 In 52 Journey.
In the process of interviewing hundreds of individuals from all walks of life and sharing their stories with the world through blog postings, pictures and videos, Michaelson united a group of people that shared a common thread of wanting to bring out the best in those around them. This was no small feat for a mother of two who was able to accomplish this journey with close friends helping out with the planning and the assistance of social media and other helpful sites on the internet. The result has been not only a spotlight on what one person can do to bring about change. It has also shown how much more we have that unites us than separates us.
Having personally had the opportunity in late 2009 to meet Dafna in Pearl, Mississippi and be interviewed for the project, I was able to see firsthand the passion she had for what she was doing. It was obvious she didn't create 50 In 52 Journey for the fame. I believe if she had, there is no way it would have been as successful. I have no doubt that what she was able to do in one year was just Dafna being Dafna: a woman who believes that the good of the world is worth sharing, no matter where it might be or where it might lead us.
After all 50 states were covered by the end of 2009, the next phase of the "journey" was already taking shape and being announced. Dafna formed the Journey Institute to bring together thought leaders from across the country to address the problems she had seen while on the road. This was a larger effort to unite people who were tackling various issues and allow them to find solutions together. The family of problem-solvers was growing once again.
In explaining its existance, the Journey Institute's websites explains that "the 50 in 52 Journey project sought to bring awareness of people across America who have taken an idea to solve a problem or build community and turned it into reality. The Journey Institute will now seek to help those who have an idea for solving a community problem or in some way building community, but have no idea how to take the idea off the couch and into the community." Once again Dafna was urging the country to act.
Yet it wasn't just her efforts through the institute that she was contending with in 2010. As the year went on, the world learned that Dafna Michaelson the woman was going on a journey of a different kind in her personal life. With the threat of cancer in front of her, she made the decision to undergo a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy. "With two lumps just waiting to turn into cancer I had to act," Michaelson said regarding the discovery. "I could not afford to wait for the ominous day that my oncologist would declare me in active cancer."
As she had done before, Dafna allowed her friends and supporters to take this more intimate journey along with her through her blog postings and articles on Examiner.com. In one entry before the procedure she shared this: "I have written before about the discovery and the testing but have found it incredibly difficult to talk about, let alone write about, what is next for me. On the surface my results from testing were very good. After all, I don’t have cancer...yet. Yet. It is that very 'yet' that has left me in this limbo, this place of gamble... My oncologist, a phrase that still catches in my throat when I say it aloud, told me that I was looking at when I get cancer, not if."
After weighing the options before her and making her decision, Dafna Michaelson has once again rallied us in the way she attacks life and the problems we all face. What I'ved learned from her over the year or so since we met is the increasing power of One. When one stands up for what they believe is the right thing to do, others will know that they are not alone, no matter what the challenge before them.
It is with great pleasure that I announce that Dafna Michaelson is Conversations' Person Of The Year For 2010. We salute her not only for what she has done, but because of what she has urged us all to do and become. She is a model not just for her children or even for women. She is an example of what it really means to be humane, and the world is better off because of the journey she has started us on.
To see the recap of Dafna's journey complete with pictures and videos, visit www.50in52journey.com. Additional information about the Journey Institute can be found at www.journeyinstitute.org.