"I shall [ride] through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not [ride] this way again." --Stephen Grellet
We’re all on a long ride called human life. So how’s that journey going today? And as you travel, are you taking the time to spread some good and some kindness and some treasure and some love along the way? The ride.
You’ll excuse me if I’ve got riding on the brain. You see right now I’m in the midst of hard training for a real ride, a long bike ride, next month’s Pan Mass Challenge, the largest athletic fundraiser in the world. Come August 8th the PMC will have collected $34 million in gifts for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, one-hundred percent of all donations going to find a cure for cancer. Dana Farber delivers compassionate and cutting edge treatment each year to thousands of cancer patients from around the world.
Along with personally having to raise $4200 in donations I and 5,000 others will pedal upwards of 200 miles in two days, August 6th and 7th, from the hills of Sturbridge to the dunes of Provincetown. Kind of crazy in a way, don’t you think? It will take something like 152,000 pedal strokes per rider to get us from here to there. There’s the weather. Will it rain? Will it be a hot August dog day only New England can deliver? There’s your posterior. Suffice it to say that when you’ve got your derriere on a bike seat for upwards of twenty hours over two days it can get a bit sore down there. There’s all the training you have to do in advance, hundreds of miles and hours, time away from family, up so early for a quick ride, out at dusk for a few more miles. But still we ride.
Why? We aren’t paid. There really is no apparent or tangible pay off for the marathon bike ride, not in an obvious way at least. So me? Well I ride to recognize one simple truth. Life is short. All of us are stamped with an unknowable expiration date the day we are born and then the clock of finitude starts ticking away. As soon as we enter this world we begin the ride towards our exit.
That’s an obvious truism but one I think many humans tend to forget and even deny. You know the excuses. As in I’ll forgive that person who hurt me some day, but not now. I’m still mad. I’ll give more money to charity some day, but not now. I’ve got to take care of me. I’ll work less and spend more time with my family some day, but not now. My career is my number one priority. I’ll get back to church and God someday when things are less busy, but not now. Haven’t got the time.
And then some cruel event happens and all of our plans for “then” come crashing to the ground. We wake up to the fragility and preciousness of this God given finite life. Cancer does this. Today we are ok. Then tomorrow we find a lump or a shadow on an X-ray or read a scary lab result. Ask anyone who’s faced or is facing “The Big C” and they’ll tell you that the day they were diagnosed everything changed. Disease jolts us awake. Accidents can too and natural disasters like a tornado which appears out of a bright June sky. Just the circumstances of life. And then in an epiphany we realize that we do only pass and ride this way but once. How will we ride? How will we live?
Faith in an infinite God constantly reminds us that finally we human beings are all finite. Life is precious. Life is a mystery. We have no idea when our lives or the lives of others will end. When we adopt this attitude of spiritual finitude, of living with the truth that dying comes to all of us, it can radically change the way we live, act, and ride in this life.
We can love more and neglect less. That someone who needs to know that you love them? Tell them now. Don’t wait. We can give more away knowing we cannot take it with us. All that cash and all our stuff will not fit into the coffin, no matter how hard we try! We can take risks and pay attention to the bucket list. What have you always dreamed of doing? Get to it! We begin to live, not for ourselves alone, but for others too. The smallest life is always the one which only concerns “me”. In the face of death we can become more alive! Imagine that. That’s why I ride the PMC.
You and I will only ride this way but once. What are you doing to make it the ride of a lifetime? Get on the bike and get moving!
(To make a donation to the PMC, go to PMC.org and just follow the directions.)