On the first Saturday in August, I embark on an annual bike journey called Ride Idaho. Last weekend, I completed my eighth ride with this group. During the typical week, several hundred people from all corners of the United States pedal 300-400 miles over a seven day period. We sleep in tents, eat like royals, and enjoy being pampered by the large volunteer staff. The trip feels like adult summer camp for avid cyclists.
I learn a valuable lesson or gain some insights every year. On my initial trip in 2008, I met a volunteer that seemed to be the happiest person I had ever met. Half way through the ride I asked him if he would share his story with me. Over a two hour period he told an amazing tale of his penniless life dedicated to serving other people. After the event, he was headed to Spain to walk 500 miles on the Camino de Santiago. The seed was innocently planted for my future walk.
A few years later, I had the pleasure of meeting a spry lady named Ellen. She happened to be 82 years old. With the exception of one ridiculously long hill, she rode the entire course. I had dinner with her one night and challenged her to give me some advice. I asked her to dig deep into her history, wait three days, and then give me one sentence that would improve my life. On the third day, she said, “Eliminate hate from every aspect of your life.”
On this most recent event, I met a middle aged man named Jason. I saw him stumbling through camp on the first evening and assumed he was inebriated. A few days later, I shared a meal with him. He explained that his balance is messed up due to a horrible accident when he was eight years old. His brother accidentally shot him in the back of the head with a shotgun. He has never driven a car, but was able to pedal the entire route on a three wheeled recumbent bike. He is also a fellow author and writes poetry. I asked him what type he writes and he replied, “I write pedestrian poetry……the kind that anyone can understand.” It is amazing what can be discovered below the surface of judgement.
Similar to a million steps on the Camino, this trip has vast quantities of wisdom accompanied by adversity. The challenge may be physical like a sore tendon or mental caused by a meaningless problem. No matter how much planning is done prior to the trip, there is always a logistical situation that seems to put a chink in the beautiful armor of this great journey. In previous years, I found myself leading the chorus of complainers about some trivial fault. It could be an aid station without water or campsite with limited space. Now, I look at these minor inconveniences with a smile.
There is no state of perfection in ourselves, relationships, careers, or bike events. When inevitable irritations rise to the surface, we all have a choice. The first is to assign fault or blame which leads to anger and resentment. The second is to find beauty in the imperfect cracks which leads to pure bliss. The Japanese refer to the latter as wabi-sabi which is the acceptance of transience and imperfection.
Enjoy the ride as that is all we have…..