If there was was one thing I learned on the road as I traveled with Ride for Water it was that not all heroes wear capes, they don’t all have superpowers, and they sure don’t all get their own movie. It was especially clear when I visited the 9/11 memorial, the battlefield at Gettysburg, and other national monuments that are so important to our country’s history. But do you know what all heroes do have?
They have this calling in their lives to put others before themselves!
There was this moment in Fargo, North Dakota where the Safe family opened up their home to us. They had three children and their 2 year old son, Charlie, was so excited to show me his new bike. He kept going up and down their front driveway, gaining more speed with each try. Then these 5 strangers rolled up on the driveway with their bigger and more expensive bikes. They all had the same outfits on, which were skin tight resembling that of a fictitious super hero. Charlies face immediately lit up and he turned around to take it all in. As he turned his head, there was Paul with his bike in hand and all his gear still on. Charlie looked up at him like, “Wow! I want to be just like him!”
Chills immediately ran down my arms & once again I was reminded that this ride was bigger than all of us. We started this journey because there are 665 million people who don’t have access to clean water. At the end of it we left, at least I left, understanding that this ride accomplished more than bringing awareness and funds to our cause.
Throughout our journey there were individuals who always thanked us for caring and for our willingness to sacrifice our time to make a difference, but to be honest I never saw myself as a hero. I just sat in a car, found housing for our team, and made them lunch so they wouldn’t starve as they peddled anywhere from 80-130 miles a day. I think people looked up to the boys and wondered how they got up every morning and continued to bike. It wasn’t because they loved cycling that’s for sure. Pretty much every guy on our team hated their bike.
It goes back to that call, which all heroes have, to put others before themselves. Someone once said, “The engine of the bike is the person who sits on the seat.” The engine in our lives for those 50 days we were on the road, was those who don’t have immediate access to one of life’s basic needs. I admire the hell out of all of the riders on our campaign this year, but the heroes I saw every day weren’t just them. The more cities we entered and the more state lines we crossed, the more I began to realize a hero doesn’t have to take on some magnificent quest or tackle some huge problem in this world.
A hero is Kari Burrows, a Director at Boeing, who opened her doors for 7 strangers as she was planning a wedding with her whole family and then answered her phone for these strangers when they were in great desperation, while she was leading a meeting in front of a board room of managers. A hero is Nate and Alice Safe, a football coach and a mom, who have a 7 week newborn and two other sons, yet they still decided to welcome in 7 strangers into their house. They fed us, cleaned up after us, and gave us entire access to their basement where their kids play. Who in their right mind would do something like that with a newborn in the house? A True hero, that’s who.
These people were ordinary individuals doing extraordinary things. What drives them is what also drove us as a group. At the core we all want to make this world a better place and we all do it in our own ways. We ride bikes; they house strangers. So here’s your chance to go make a difference; ride your bike, cook a meal, or in all seriousness just be nice. You never know who is looking at you wishing they can be like you someday!
Here’s a brief slideshow of some real heroes from this trip!