While chatting with a Waukegan FCBA board member Friday evening, I was asked why I keep riding year after year. Not a simple thing to answer. I’ll try to explain: I am an introvert, which may raise some eyebrows from my FCBA family, but it’s true. Because I am an introvert, I have trouble meeting people and making friends. The FCBA adventure forces me to meet new people and forces me to relate to them. And, this is only a little painful for me, for the people who ride with me very soon become my heroes -- I can sit back and watch the relationships grow between the riders, and eventually they all seek me out to some degree, and soon we start bonding in a very beautiful way. Almost without exception, they are all younger than I am. They inspire me more and more as the weeks progress, as they are challenged both physically and mentally, while they seek out who they are, and who their God is. They witness their faith, which allows me to grow in my faith. I can encourage them as they struggle up the hills, against the wind, against the cold, against the hot, against the road conditions, against the loneliness when they end up by themselves mile after mile, and when I see the looks on their faces as they reach summit after summit of struggle on this adventure, my heart sings for them.
Then, of course, there are the people we meet in church after church. Beautiful children of God! Going out of their way to open the doors of their churches, their kitchens, their homes for showers, helping us with transportation to the showers, sharing their faith, cooking meal after meal, etc. Sometimes only doing one of the above, more often doing all of the above.
And finally, the people that we help. Fixing a bathroom so the homeowner will not have to use the woods, adding wheel chair ramp after wheel chair ramp, replacing an entire roof, helping a young man regain some dignity with an accessible bedroom and bathroom, painting, cleaning up yards, etc., etc., etc. Who benefits most, me or the families we are helping?
As we meet people on the street I hand them FCBA business cards, explaining what we are doing, and I’m always thrilled by the looks on their faces as they try to comprehend exactly what that means.
The reaction on our first practice ride in Atlantic City when we were stopped at a light not two blocks from our start was priceless. A couple across the street called out, asking what we were doing, so I rode across the street to hand them a card and explained that we would be riding our bikes to the West Coast. The man asked two times if this was true, and finally shouted out, “You’re not really going to _ _ _ _ing Oregon, are you?” I explained again that we were. He looked over to the group and shouted out to Everett, “Hey brother, are you really going to Oregon?” like he didn’t really believe me and had to ask the only brother he saw. A most delightful experience, and it’s one that’s repeated time after time the entire nine weeks, but usually without the colorful language.
And so I have evolved from a cynical old man sitting at home, signing up for a bike ride across America, and finding out that it was God’s plan all along to put me on my first ride so I could grow in my faith. Once I found out firsthand what the Fuller Center is all about, namely helping people with a hand up to affordable housing, it was no longer about a bike ride, but it was about me doing God’s work, and growing in my faith. A truly beautiful experience! I am blessed to have found this calling. After riding the last three years, being supported by others, I decided to give back to the riders by driving my car as an extra support vehicle this year, with Lois as my navigator, and I am greatly enjoying the experience.