Every single trip spent delivering books by bike is meaningful. Powerful even. Well, in this case I was delivering a thank you note to the Mayor’s office. He purchased my book and carved out 15 minutes of his day to visit with me recently. The hourlong round-trip required to personally deliver a handwritten note to his office was important to me, even though I simply handed it to his assistant. It’s about gratitude. For some reason I find myself being more grateful while exercising my muscles and huffing and puffing up hills. This was far more meaningful for me than spending 30 seconds on an email to say thanks.
This day’s journey was tremendous for other reasons, however. Along the way I caught a brief glimpse of this father and son enjoying a tender moment together. I found the scene to be heartwarming. The effect pulled me out of commuter-mode (simply traveling from point A to point B), and transformed me into a human being delighting in the journey itself.
Small glimpses of grace, beauty, goodness, and simple kindnesses, fill me with gratitude. These are why my preferred method of travel is via two wheels instead of four.
Take, for example, my surprisingly engaging visit with Richard here. I see him on the Lakewalk constantly, and finally got the nerve to visit with him. It turns out that even though he’s a remarkably busy engineer, he walks the 4+ miles to his office each way for his commute! Sometimes he’ll even kayak to the office, and also uses the bike occasionally, but walking is probably his most common method of travel since he doesn’t bike in the winter (yup, he does this year-round even though he obviously makes a decent living from his occupation). He says he feels tremendously blessed to be able to walk each day just a few feet away from the largest body of fresh water in the world. Richard continues on with this even though the demands of his job can require him to show up at the office seven days a week! Obviously all this walking is helping to keep him centered and in good spirits. I found myself feeling remarkably fascinated by his lifestyle.
It gets even better. When he casually mentioned he only had one bike, I was prompted to ask if he was a minimalist. It turns out that he is! These people are my heroes. Though his job pays well, he is content with two or three changes of clothes and seems to live about as lightly upon the earth as possible. When asked about minimalism he points at his heart and says the goal is to live big “in here.” I observed his countenance, and could see that a limited number of possessions is indeed helping him to live large. More stuff would clutter his life, thus distract him, and diminish his happiness. I greatly admire his dogged persistence in the face of powerful headwinds, as he lives slowly and simply while working in a field known for big bucks, and endemic busyness. He is an intensely interesting human being, and I never would have had the opportunity to be enthralled by our ten minutes of conversation if I had been rushing around in a car (sealed off and isolated from the rest of the world).
As I walked up to City Hall to deliver my note for the Mayor, I was still thrilling in our conversation while praying, “God, this is what I want to do with my life!”
Two floors down from the Mayor’s office I had the opportunity to visit with a former co-worker. Once again, my current “occupation” opens up such opportunities that otherwise would seem just plain weird. I found myself admiring her tenacity while completing an MBA under a full course load of 15 credits per semester, managing an important and busy office for the city, being a year-round soccer mom, and also serving on the boards of two community organizations. My first reaction was to inquire if she was planning on running for Mayor! Her workload would probably drive me insane, but she seems to plug along with a cheerful spirit. I find it fascinating to converse with such a diversity of individuals over the course of a single journey.
Biking also allows for thoughtful observations to percolate through even tiny details that would otherwise go unnoticed. On this same day I observed two boys walking home from middle school. Both boys were alarmingly clean, a Bible school casual level of cleanliness, and even their shoes appeared to have never veered off clean pavement or carpet. They were brilliantly new looking even though we are nearing the end of the school year. Since I observed the phenomenon twice, I attribute this to a pattern and not simple coincidence. The experience enabled me to put my own frustration over my elementary-aged kids tracking mud into the house into a better perspective. SNEAKERS SHOULD BE DIRTY! Clean, new-looking shoes, and flawless looking clothes made me wonder if these boys ever do anything outside. This might be a bit judgmental, but shoes shouldn’t be that bright.
“Ashes to ashes and dust to dust…” Since we’ll be returned to the earth some day, we shouldn’t be afraid to carry around a bit of earthiness with us in our daily lives. I’m proud to be a man of the soil, and that my children freely spread it around. Dirt isn’t dirty, but hygienic cleanliness is…