Only my most faithful and loyal readers (all six of you!) noticed that I didn’t post to my blog last week. I received emails, text messages, and phone calls asking, “Where’s your blog? Are you okay?”
Well, I wasn’t okay. Actually, I am not sure that I’m better now, but at least I can think clearly. So what happened? The answer is over a year in the making…
In January of 2013, I was given the assignment at work to plan a “Mission to Israel” for the Jewish community of Atlanta. So, even though I’ve never even planned a family vacation, I figured that this assignment couldn’t be that difficult. I sat at my desk and made out my “to do” list:
- Secure some people to “chair” or “host” the Mission;
- Hire a trip provider in Israel;
- Secure a travel agent to handle flights;
- Determine travel dates;
- Set the cost of the Mission;
- Decide upon itinerary options;
- Develop a budget;
- Establish a marketing plan and recruitment strategy;
- Schedule parlor meetings and information sessions; and
- Hire an administrator who will help track registrations and handle questions.
Easy, right? Nope. A simple list on a piece of paper is SO far from the complex reality of this type of endeavor! I had no idea when I started all of this that it would become an all-consuming, very full-time job.
When I reflect back on every bullet written above, each one came with its share of challenges and was a major process in and of itself. Not one was an easy lay-up. But, we plowed through.
- After months of suggesting names and engaging in conversations, we finally found two great couples to chair the Mission.
- After in-person interviews, requesting proposals from four highly recommended land agents in Israel, and undergoing a committee selection process, a trip provider was chosen.
- Thanks to a previous relationship, an agent for the air travel was quickly selected. (Unfortunately, group tickets on three major airlines ended up not being the preference of the vast majority who wanted to use frequent flyer miles or hunt for their own low fares on the Internet.)
- Setting the travel dates and pricing out the trip determined who was “in” and who would be “out.” (Since we ended up choosing the month of June to travel – an expensive time of the year and one that’s full of conflicting family commitments – many people couldn’t join us.)
- Deciding on “high end” and “different” sets of itineraries while staying within a budget? Forget it.
For the past eighteen months, my associate and I have worked our butts off. We fielded thousands of questions (“Is it safe to eat the fruit in Israel? What about drinking the water? What should I wear? Will there be Wi-Fi?); met with hundreds of people; made dozens of presentations; and juggled numerous demands from both sides of the ocean.
The last two weeks have been “crunch time.” Since the Sunday morning of Memorial Day Weekend, I’ve woken up each morning to at least two dozen emails – all legitimate and necessary questions and requests – from my various partners in Israel (their day starts seven hours before our does). I’ve felt behind and unable to catch up despite working at least fifteen-hour days. I’ve been a nervous wreck and unable to think about ANYTHING other than this Mission. So, last week’s blog got cut.
* * *
I wrote today from the plane to Israel. It was Thursday morning. My Mission starts on Monday. I’ll have three days to get over my jet lag and finish up last-minute details.
Two hundred and thirty-six people will be arriving in Israel, expecting to have a weeklong experience that will last a lifetime. The average age of the participants is sixty. Of this group, one hundred have never been to Israel before. I set the goal (assumed the obligation) of making this a unique and memorable experience for each one of them.
Intellectually and practically, I know that there will be complaints; not everyone will be pleased or satisfied. But, I’m hopeful; despite recurring nightmares.
I have a terrific team joining me from Atlanta. The professional guides and staff in Israel are in their element and tops in their field. Israel…well, Israel will speak for itself. Now I just have to be calm and breathe deep…in through the nose and out through the mouth…
“Oh God in Heaven, please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”