My husband, Dwight, is an avid biker. He stuffs his pannier bags and goes cross country, joining the many solo, die-hard adventuresome spirits who set out to bike for biking sake. When he decided to go to New Zealand most people impulsively blurted out concern. Aren’t you scared? You’re going alone? Isn’t that dangerous? And why wouldn’t their first reaction be negative dismay?
We are subjected to a continuous repertoire of frightening scenarios. With things like death, destruction and hate we scare ourselves into withdrawal from healthy human interaction. We succumb to a perceived culture of ruin, feeling helpless. The voice of altruism is but a whisper because… you can’t trust anyone and there are too many bad people waiting to hurt you.
Not true. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy . We created it and we can obliterate it.
So back to biking.
Dwight biked for 6 weeks. He had his bike, tools, clothes, a sleeping bag and tent. He was not only a stranger pedaling up and down the mountains, along the coast, and through small towns and big cities, grimy and sweaty, but a middle-aged man from a different country. And yet, not a day passed without him being the recipient of some kind outreaching by a New Zealander.
In many a town, when he sat curbside eating lunch in front of a café, people brought their food out and sat with Dwight to chat .
Once, as Dwight biked along, a man named Tim pulled his car up in front of Dwight to flag him down exclaiming, “It’s time for tea,” and proceeded to give Dwight directions to his house. When he arrived, Tim had tea and cookies ready and they visited for over an hour. When Dwight was leaving, Tim showed him where he keeps the key to his house and invited Dwight to make himself at home on the return.
Another time as Dwight rode into a campground, Dave, who lives next to the campground came over to introduce himself and offered to take Dwight on a tour of the town. After my husband had set up his tent, Dave drove him to see the sights, pointed out his favorite shoe store and even took him to the top of a mountain to look down over the town, nestled in a lovely valley.
Still another time, a vacationing North Islander gave Dwight and his bicycle a ride to the Wellington ferry, taking a special scenic route just so Dwight could see the sights.
Once after a particularly long, difficult day of pedaling Dwight came to a gorge. The bridge across the gorge was the only way to get to the other side unless you backtracked 60 miles or so, but the bridge was closed for repairs. Detouring with a car is frustrating enough, but on a bike, another 60 miles???!!!!! Unthinkable!!! When Dwight asked the construction workers if he might get permission to cross because to go back was far too big a deal, the response was, “Oh, mate, we can’t make you do that!!!!” and they let him pass.
On one of Dwight’s last days in New Zealand, when very low on energy from fighting a cold, a car traveling in the opposite direction passed, then stopped, backed up and the driver said, “I have a condo on the ocean. You can stay there a couple days.” Gavin told Dwight where the key is kept. Dwight did go there and stay two days; the second person to tell this American stranger where the key is. Amazing. Wonderful. Truly uplifting.
Then on the final day, there was 5 year old Hope, wandering the café in which Dwight sat. She plopped herself in a chair at his table and said, “Where are you headed?” He told her. She was delightfully polite and sweet and intelligent. The two of them had some difficulty understanding each other’s accent. Hope would occasionally say to Dwight, “Excuse me, I didn’t understand that.” Meeting Hope, on the way out of New Zealand…could there be any better way to end this bike trip then to carry Hope in your heart?
There is so much goodness and love and caring in all our hearts. We mustn’t be afraid to extend that outwardly. Of course good judgment and prudence should prevail but mistrustful cautiousness can’t be allowed to overshadow or overpower our ability to recognize the Tim’s, the Gavin’s, the Dave’s or to keep the memory of Hope in our hearts.
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