Back in 1983, I hitch-hiked from Greece back to Germany, where I was an undergraduate student. I both loved and hated hitching rides with people. I hated it because I was forced to do it, too poor to afford train fare. Standing on the side of the road, breathing in exhaust as car after car passed me by. It was depressing.
But then that magical moment would always come to pass – a car would slow down and stop. They’d look me over, I’d jump in, and off we’d go. I can’t tell you how many fascinating conversations I had with people along the way, people who would sometimes offer me a beer or even invite me to stay a night in their home.
I thought about those youthful adventures when I came up with the idea of this bike trip, now five years ago. Something magical happens when you depend on the kindness of strangers – a human connection is forged; your vulnerability and your utter insufficiency are exposed and embraced.
On a bicycle, you have no airbags, no steel cage around you. When it rains, you get wet. But more important, you need other people. You definitely need car drivers to be considerate and pass you with care. But on longer trips, like our ride to Washington, you need people to feed and to house you.
The magic of this bike trip is based on that human need and loving response. As hard as it is every year to ask for food, shelter and donations, the generosity of others makes it all worthwhile. Ten riders will be going part or all the way to DC this year, but we would be lost if not for the seven congregations and dozens of individuals along the way who make our trip possible. We feel embraced by the nearly 100 people who donate and the thousands who follow the progress of our trip.
I believe there is a fundamental truth here: that God made us vulnerable and imperfect so thatwe may be the object of others’ selfless love. If this is correct, then climate change is a tremendous opportunity.
Just as we cyclists are in need of help, so also are the millions suffering the effects of climate change now. Every decision we make to reduce our carbon footprint – from driving more efficient cars to purchasing electricity from renewable sources – is an act of lovingkindness.
We are given an awe-full gift: because our lifestyles are so energy intensive, we can actually do something about climate change through our daily actions. We can do even more by making our congregations and workplaces more efficient. In contrast, the nearly 2 billion poor who cannot afford to fly in a plane, or to drive a car, cannot further reduce their carbon footprint – yet they are the ones suffering most.
We are all interconnected. We all breathe the same atmosphere. I hope most of all that this bike trip will serve as a reminder of these truths, and of our human need for the love of others.
Donate online to PA IPL in support the PA-to-DC riders
or send a check, memo: bike 2016 to PA IPL 243 S. Allen St. #337, State College, PA 16801
MANY THANKS to our 2016 silver sponsors Sun Directed and Beth Richards, KBB Realtor, to our 2016 bronze sponsors The Bicycle Shop and West Arête, and to the Rock Ethics Institute for their support!
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