Hello friend…it’s been a while.
This summer has been unlike any I’ve ever had, and my experiences are having a ripple effect in everything I do.
As you may or may not know, my oldest son rode his bike across the country this summer with a small team of students from his school. The goal was to raise $100,000 and donate it to Ride 2 Recovery, a non-profit organization that helps wounded veterans recover and heal by connecting them with cycling. I have been working with the team since last September to help plan and organize the trip. There were times when it was stressful, when we didn’t think we were going to come close to raising enough money, and when it took time I didn’t think I had to give. It was challenging for the cyclists too – they had to get out for training rides and meet on Sundays when their peers were either relaxing or studying. The parents had bi-weekly conference calls at 9pm EST…for anyone who knows me, that is WAY past my bedtime. In fact, I am embarrassed to admit that I actually was late for our very first conference call because I slept through my ‘alarm’. Classic ‘cringe’ moment.
The team rode 3,800 miles in 47 days and met with veterans and local families throughout the ride. They were a small force on the road, trying to make a difference. They could have been isolated in their efforts, but instead, they were honored across America by each small town that received them, made them dinner, welcomed them with fire trucks and American flags. What was unexpected (for me, at least) was how much the team and the parents received back along the way. The outpouring of support and appreciation was truly remarkable, and at times, overwhelming. The ride was in no way easy. It was physically grueling for the riders and mentally almost as tough. They had 18 days when the mileage for the day was over 100 miles. They contended with smoke-filled air, heat waves, head winds, long days in the saddle followed by ‘meet and greet’ dinners while still in sweaty bike gear followed by riding to their camp site to quickly set up tents to start the whole gig over the next day. The gratitude and appreciation we received along the way made it crystal clear that what the kids were doing mattered…a lot.
In hind-sight, I now see that none of this would have happened without the spirit of collaboration. The cyclists had to work as a group to make it across the country. The parents had to connect to plan, organize and facilitate the details for the ride. The small towns we went through willingly worked with us and embraced our cause with passion, generosity and patience. Without this collaboration, the ride would have had a much different feel for all of us.
Here’s where the ripple effect kicked in. Almost every random person we met along the way stepped up to help the team. People allowed us to set up water stops in their barns, driveways or in the shade on their property. One man opened his home to the team so they could escape the heat and sleep in real beds. Local business owners voluntarily treated the kids to pizza and offered donations when they heard about the ride. Back home, my co-workers readily supported me while my husband was gone for close to four weeks, and covered for me when I was away with the team for the final week. My parents helped me take care of our puppies and my two younger children remained flexible and helpful throughout the chaos. So many of my friends and family supported the team with generous donations. The ride ended almost a month ago, and I continue to be filled with gratitude that I was able to be a part of this extraordinary experience.
I firmly believe that actively working with others to do something charitable is one of the most rewarding, inspiring experiences. It forces us to look beyond our lives and to see what others face on a daily basis. Whether it’s raising money for Veterans or for cancer, or whether it’s volunteering time working on something that moves you, taking action to help others is the ultimate gift we can give. When we give, we also win. When we take action, those around us benefit as much as we do. My mind is open to what feels like a million new possibilities of giving back and collaborating with others, and I know it’s due to the work I did to help my son’s team this past year. It’s easy to say that you want to do something. What matters is when you actually take the time to do something about it. My advice? Don’t wait for when you hope to have time. Make a plan, set your intentions, and give it your all.