“The road is long, with many a winding turn, that leads us to who knows where, who knows where? But I'm strong, strong enough to carry him. He ain't heavy, he's my brother."
--"He Ain't Heavy"--by Russell, Hyman and Smith
Can we carry that weight? Carry the hurt, carry the hopes, carry the sickness, and carry the prayers for and by, those who face cancer? I know we can.
Carry…this coming weekend I and 6,000 of my cycling friends will ride in the 37th Pan Mass Challenge (PMC) bike ride. All day Saturday and Sunday, August 6th and 7th, we’ll be spinning circles regardless of what Mother Nature throws our way. A sultry and hot August morning. A muggy afternoon. A rainy evening. For you see we have to bike—we actually want to bike, even the nutty among us who will be spinning out something like 152,000 pedal strokes, all to propel ourselves from the hills of Sturbridge to the dunes of Provincetown, 190 miles, in just 48 hours.
A bit crazy, sure, but this wacky road trip is all for one amazing, simple, darn good reason. To help others in need: to carry others. Those with cancer. Our neighbors and co-workers. Our children and spouses, Moms and Dads, friends and strangers. Hundred of thousands. To carry them along with us on this very long journey and in doing so, raising a record $46 million for a world class cancer treatment and research center, Dana- Farber, right in our fair city of Boston.
The PMC is the granddaddy of all athletic fundraising endeavors. Begun in 1980, in thirty six years the PMC has raised $500 million dollars in direct support for Dana-Farber. That’s not a typo—more than a half $1 billion, dedicated to cancer treatment and research through the Jimmy Fund! The PMC is the Dana-Farber’s single largest source of revenue. That’s why we ride.
Not to punish ourselves, though by the end our legs and backsides will be hurting. Not to overshadow the folks we ride for: this trip is about them, not us. Not to blow our own horns but if blowing a horn can raise more money to find a cure for cancer I’ll blow and I’ll bike ‘til the cows come home. Maybe you’ll see us next weekend if you are around the winding route from central and eastern Massachusetts to the Cape. Watch for a sea of bikes whipping by at the stately pace of about 14 miles per hour. We’ll be smiling (at least early in the day) because we know for each mile traveled that’s one more dollar for a cure. One more patient cared for; one more scientific mystery unlocked; one more strike against cancer.
We ride for different reasons but almost always we ride for special folks in our lives that have faced cancer, beat cancer, died from cancer, have cancer. They are our angels, who ride on our shoulders, pushing us to go just a little farther. I ride for Nora, a sweet and kind middle school kid. For Dottie, a fellow church member and high school science teacher extraordinaire. For Kathy, my amazing and faithful cousin. Sue, my lifelong mentor. T-Michael, a colleague and brother in ministry.
These folks have carried me for years, with their love and friendship and courage and care. So now, on my bike, I try to carry them. In memory and in commitment. In hope and in grief. Because when you get the big “C” you need every one in your corner. You need to depend upon a healing place like the Dana Farber. You need to know that you are not alone. No one, no child of God, gets through this life solo. We all need someone to cheer us on, to scoop us up when we tumble, to wipe away our tears when we weep, to make this incredible and fragile God-given life worth living, not just for ourselves alone but for others too.
I ride because my faith in God compels me to. Others ride for fun. For the athletic challenge. For the fellowship. For the possibility of achieving the seemingly impossible. To just be a part of something good, very good, so much bigger than ourselves. From where I stand (or sit on my bike seat!) this is what makes a really “good” life, great. To encourage generosity and then be generous: to give so others might live. And in my case to lug along 189 pounds on a delicate metal frame, from the suburbs of Boston to the Cape Cod Canal.
In the end, who wants to pedal the ride of life alone? I don’t. I’ve gotten where I am, not just under my own power, but under the graceful power of God and through the love of family and friends. As the old pop song declares, “It's a long, long road, from which there is no return. While we're on the way to there, why not share?....she ain't heavy, she's my sister.”
So that is the pitch and the plea and the challenge. In just a few days we ride and now we need your help. Has a family member or friend been gently pestering you to support their PMC ride? Get out that checkbook, get online and give! Need someone to sponsor? Go to PMC.ORG and the rest is easy. Every penny you donate will go directly to the cause.
Sometimes others carry us. Thank God. Sometimes we need to carry others who need help. Thank God. Won’t you ride with us?
See you on the road.