Yes, it is possible for a few people to change the world
It’s difficult to read the paper or watch television anymore without being bombarded with news about senseless bloodshed, violence, disease, hunger, starvation, hatred, abuse and myriad other social and moral injustices. Just how do we go about trying to “fix” the way things are in today’s world? Mind boggling to think about it.
Is it even possible for one person or a few people to change the world? The answer to that question in my own humble opinion is yes, and here’s why.
A few weeks ago I received an invitation from our good friends Randy and Mystee to attend and support a cancer awareness fundraising event being held in their neighborhood. Over the years, I’ve participated and been involved in a number of functions associated with research and awareness of this most horrid disease we know as cancer. It’s affected my own family in many ways.
Once selected, students fundraise $4,500 on their own for the trip and do 2,000 miles worth of preliminary training rides.
Some of the students selected had never been on a bike trip before, which led me to wonder why someone would willingly take on such a huge physical challenge for an opportunity to do something bigger than themselves. The answers we found after an evening with these extraordinary kids were thought provoking, sobering and refreshingly unselfish. They were each riding on behalf of someone else, and in turn were getting back experiences and forming friendship bonds that would last a lifetime.
My parents always tried to teach us that when life is relentlessly beating us to a pulp to focus on helping someone else, then in turn we’d forget our own problems and, in a nutshell, be happier. Even after putting in a hundred miles that day, we didn’t hear one negative statement, complaint, gripe or comment. Instead, these kids wanted to know about each of us and our stories of how cancer has effected OUR lives. Remarkable attitudes.
I asked a few of the riders what kinds of things were asked in their initial interview before they became part of the team. One response was, “There were a lot of questions about our ability to work well with others and how we would show leadership in different situations” and “although being physically prepared was important, they asked how I’d mentally handle the challenges of such a journey.”
Indeed the logistics of putting together and planning such a trip are enormous, and the students are tasked with serving on committees to plan everything from securing lodging in host towns and cities to providing medical care, bike maintenance, food, teaching opportunities and route choices.
I can’t imagine the time that goes into making sure everything is planned and carried out efficiently and effectively. We used to take our 5th graders on a bike trip from our elementary school to the high school (a distance of only about 2.5 miles). It was similar to releasing 250 trout into an Olympic size swimming pool and after an hour getting them all back in the same net they were released from.
Team leaders are selected and rotated to allow everyone to experience the different phases of the journey. Small groups of 5-10 riders start each morning in intervals to allow for smoother communication and traffic concerns.
The team is split into three separate trips (Sierras, Rocky Mountains and Ozark’s) covering different geographical routes through the U.S. and Canada, with each ending up on a final group entrance into Anchorage.
The goal, of course, is to raise funds for continuing study and research for cancer treatment, which was brought up in our neighborhood get together, but what fascinated me most was the personal growth and experiences that each of these young people were having on a very personal level.
Probably the most poignant part of the riders’ stay comes on the morning they leave their host family. They all gather in a circle and talk about their day and who they will be dedicating their ride for and often pray for. Anyone who has a loved one or friend who is struggling with the effects of cancer can have a ride dedicated to them. Our family was a recipient last year and this year as well.
We were invited to share in their circle this year. We arrived a little late, but as the groups began to split into teams they each took the opportunity to shake our hands and thank US for our stories, then with a smile and a wave they were off!
So can this unique fraternity offer hope to an ever-changing world? Can they actually make a difference? Yes, because they are “The Texas 4000” and they do it one mile at a time.
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