The Power of Investing in Others
Blog written by: Austin Howard
One afternoon in the heat of Las Vegas, I received an email from Donnie Starling about a run the next morning down the Vegas Strip. I showed up because I heard that I might be able to get a free shirt (who would pass that up?) but I stayed around because what I encountered that morning was so much more than just a quick workout down one of the most renowned streets in the world with others I had never even met.
There are only two types of people that are on the Strip at 7 in the morning – the crazy marathon runners training while on vacation and the people who are wandering back to their hotel room still intoxicated from the night before. Either way, both types of people will crack a smile and cheer on a united group of individuals running with the red, white and blue streaming behind them. It was on this morning that I experienced the power of being connected with people that I didn’t even know, simply because we all chose to wake up that morning, throw on our running shoes, and come together on the Las Vegas Boulevard.
Several months passed as a member of the Team RWB Las Vegas Chapter and I loved meeting up with the crew for a morning run or an afternoon hike at Red Rock. The events were compelling, the morale was contagious, and I enjoyed getting to know fellow Team RWB members on a more personal level. Then I got orders to Minot, N.D.
Not only is Minot popular for its extreme cold temperatures, but I soon learned there wasn’t a Team RWB chapter in the area. During my first months in the frozen tundra, I connected with my fellow Airmen, but I still longed for something more. I started wearing my Team RWB shirt when I went to the gym and while at work. On one of these days, another person in Minot came up to talk to me about my shirt—that deep red with the pointed and proud eagle on the front. I soon learned his name: Will Wright. He had been a member of the Team RWB chapter in England and as it turned out, he missed the camaraderie too. Will and I made a decision together that day, under the falling snow and fervid wind. We would wear our shirts whenever we could in an effort to see who else might be familiar with the organization.
The response was overwhelming. What started out as a small group of people wearing our shirts because we could soon became the beginning of a new community of this perpetual organization—Team RWB Minot. We started meeting for physical and social events in March of 2015. After going through the process to start this new Team RWB community, we reached over 500 members within a year.
Team RWB Minot has now been a Team RWB Community for over a year. When we took the initiative to make this community official, I did it because I wanted to further one of this organization’s most beloved mottos: to enrich the lives of others. The funny thing is that through it all, I ended up helping myself. We’ve all heard that it’s far greater to give a gift than to receive one and it is the same with volunteering and investing in others’ lives. There is a reason why Team RWB has several thousand volunteer leaders. We find our sense of purpose by helping others, which in turn helps us continue to grow and develop ourselves. As Robert Ingersoll said, “We rise by lifting others”. There might be dozens of people who show up to a Team RWB Minot event, but what means the most is when one of the members comes up to me and explains what this organization has done for them. One person took that step from an unhealthy lifestyle to working out and eating right. Another found friends and encouragement when they thought they were all alone. Still another found a little bit of light in a place where dark clouds and white snow cover the world for the majority of the year.
Team RWB is an organization that chooses to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. But here, it’s also an escape from the cold weather and a group where encouragement, laughter, drive and warmth thrive. It’s a place where people find themselves and discover that helping others means helping themselves in ways they couldn’t imagine. It’s a family. And it’s a family that now, three years after that very first run in the Las Vegas sun, I can’t imagine living without.
I showed up for the free shirt. I joined because of the people. But I stay because of the purpose.