A member of our extended family recently sent out an account describing a cross-country cycling trip he just completed with a friend. I was so taken with his note that I got his permission to reprint parts of it here:
“The trip took us 54 days, a total of about 322 hours of riding. This journey has taught me a lot about the country that I live in … The natural beauty that can be found everywhere is astonishing, whether it is the rolling hills of Montana, the lush mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire … or … the widespread expanses of cornfield …. And the people living there will let you know about how special their little corner of the world is.
Looking back, I was initially most nervous to venture into small rural towns on a bicycle as the outsider, desperate to find a place to eat and sleep. I would have no idea where to get food, go to the bathroom, or pitch a tent. However, it was in these small communities where I felt most welcomed. Countless times, people there pointed us in the right direction, gave us encouragement, and more often than not opened their homes, churches, or city facilities to us asking nothing in return. It was in these towns where I realized how important human interaction was on this trip …. In reality, it was the larger cities that were the most stressful … people interacting with us skeptically. Cities had all of the essential materials for me to thrive while traveling, but were missing the most important aspect of the trip, understanding and compassion. We live in a fast paced world. This trip has allowed me to slow down and appreciate everything and everybody that this country has to offer, even those who don’t see eye to eye with myself or others. I think that by slowing down and living simply encourages conversations and empathy when interacting with others of different backgrounds and stories than our own.”
I know that our family member would agree that he and his friend might have faced a greater level of distrust during parts of their journey had they been brown or black, rather than white; that said, their experience and his wonderful note underscored again for me that the vast majority of our people, even if possessed of divergent experiences, different apprehensions, and conflicting views, sincerely mean well. To say more would detract from the power of an account that speaks so eloquently for itself.