BY REV. CLINT LOVEALL
SPIRIT LAKE FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
Earlier this summer, I had the privilege to participate in the Okoboji 200 [http://okoboji200.org/], which is a bicycle ride from Des Moines to Okoboji to raise funds and awareness for human trafficking relief. I learned disturbing information about abuse in our state and around the world, and it was great to contribute in some small way.
Spending all day on a bicycle gave me lots of time to think, and since I was surrounded by other people on bikes, I mostly thought about cycling. By the end of the day, I think I noticed a few things that have application beyond the bike as well.
In no particular order, here they are;
When you are struggling, get help from the group. In cycling, a pack of riders riding together is called a "peloton" (from a French word that means 'little ball'). Cyclists often ride in a pack because if you are in the middle or back, there is much less wind resistance. This means a group of riders can travel faster than individual riders. So, when you are struggling, the best thing to do is surround yourself with people who are stronger at that moment and follow them. They literally help you along the way.
That's not just true in cycling. Whether it's grief, anxiety, or some other struggle, most of us would do well to surround ourselves with solid people and follow them. Going alone usually means exhaustion. Then when you are stronger, it might be your turn to lead for someone else.
Pay attention, but look around. When you ride in a group, you obviously have to keep your eye on what's happening in front of you. Wander off path and you are likely to cause problems. However, if you don't pick your eyes up now and then, you end up spending the whole day not seeing anything but the pavement and the back tire of the person in front of you. Every now and then you have to lift your eyes. You have to take a look around and enjoy the scenery. Too many times we slog through our days without really paying attention, and there is no telling how much we miss. Of course, we need to focus on the important things in front of us, but without a good look around now and then, we'll probably find ourselves missing some great things around us.
On an all day ride, there comes a point for everyone when they would like to stop. Maybe it's fatigue, soreness, or just boredom, but everyone has a moment where they wish they were done. But, they keep going.
Sometimes, you just have to keep pedaling on the theory that everyone else is in the same boat and they are all still going. It especially helps to remember that there are countless people who face tremendous hardships that they didn't choose. Regardless of how difficult the going, remembering those who are suffering worse keeps things in perspective and eliminates self-pity.
Some people are angry; try to love them anyway. We had 50 people who committed to ride their bikes 200 miles and raised over $60,000 to battle one of the most despicable problems on our planet. Within a half hour of leaving Des Moines, a man in a car pulled up screaming obscenities at us because he had to slow down for 10 seconds. It made no difference what we were doing or why, all he cared about was himself. Some people are like that, and there isn't much you can do to change them. Try to be kind to them, and don't let them drag you down with them.
Finally, be thankful. It's easy to focus on big problems and miss the little celebrations along the way. It's surprising how awesome a sandwich and cold bottle of water are when you are hot, tired, and still have a long way to go. If you focus on the long way to go, you'll probably miss a chance to be grateful for the small things. How many blessings go unnoticed and uncelebrated every day because we aren't paying attention when we receive them? Let's be honest, sometimes we get showered with blessings and only complain about being wet. Don't let the idea of big things keep you from treasuring little things.
I'm glad I went and hope to go again. It was a fun day and I learned a lot. Now if I can just remember it all.