Recently, the Mercy Riders had one of those discussions that focuses reality. We will begin traveling 3,800 miles in less than three months, and we had an awareness building exercise in addressing our budget. We are applying for a corporate community grant for which our total expected donations and expenses needed to be accurately forecast. The conversation got around to what portion of the costs each of us should bear, individually. It was noted that just paying an organization to support a cross-country ride could cost upwards of $12,000! While we all agreed that a few thousand dollars in personal costs would be acceptable, I wasn’t alone in thinking that I wouldn’t pay $12,000 for a ride. I know that people will pay the cost for ultimate experiences, maybe just to say they’ve done it, or because they felt compelled to do it — like the mountain climber, “Because it’s there.” To invest in creating shared memories with loved ones might be a good reason for me, but not just to “do it” for myself.
The discussion got me thinking about my personal need for “a reason to ride.” I believe the Mercy Rider team will become bound together on this journey we’ve chosen because of the shared mission. Pondering all this, I remembered the amazing HBO WW II TV mini-series, “Band of Brothers” and the episode entitled “Why We Fight.” The series portrays the real stories of some of the first Army paratroopers who jumped into France on D-Day. This particular episode centered on the discovery of the evil of Nazi concentration camps.
If you, like me, would avoid war at all costs, this episode makes you ponder the meaning of Just War Doctrine. The question is what justifies sacrifice for others, even the sacrifice of one’s life in war?
Of course, the practice of sacrifice starts much smaller. As I write this, many students are on Spring Break vacation, living it up. Last year my college daughter Erin gave up her Spring Break to work one of her college’s service programs. Recently, a friend told me about her planning activities with Marian University’s alternative Spring Break mission trip. Many students are taking a break from school, not to party on the beaches, but to serve. Bands of students, bound together in a mission to assist the poor. Inspiring!
So, here we are, a band of riders training hard and binding ourselves together to also assist the poor. I try to train four to five days a week. Last week I rode the spin bike hard for 1 1/2 hours. That evening I arose from sitting on the floor and seized in pain with the worse hamstring cramp I’ve ever felt — like multiple knives in the back of my leg! It made me wonder what I might feel on the ride, which begins in less than three months. You read about the successful cross-country trips, but not about the ones that failed. I’m pretty fit, but like the other riders, I’m north of 50-years-old, so just completing the ride concerns me a little. This ride’s success will be both individual and as a team, in reaching our fund raising and awareness-building goals and in simply, physically completing it.
What has kept me training and will keep me riding is the mission of our team’s common cause. I started really riding again two years ago. I rode an hour or two almost daily last summer, because I enjoy it. I rode with friends the 160 miles on Ride Across Indiana and did 100 on the Apple Cider Century for the challenge. I am attracted to the idea of a week or two week perhaps on scenic bike touring trip in the future. But I would not plan this six-week odyssey Mercy Ride we are planning just for the fun of it. “Why we are riding” is important for all the Mercy Riders, and it is the main reason why I want to do it.
When my bum aches or my hamstring cramps, I will continue riding for the many homeless who are served by Mercy Housing programs and for my band of brothers and sisters doing this ride to support them.