The Kindness of Others

Back in 2011 I wrote a blog entry during our Underground Railroad summer tour. In it I talked about how we completed our almost 1700 mile journey by criss crossing from state to state and having sleeping accommodations in living rooms and backyards along the route. The majority of the stops for the night were with people we had only met that day or the day before over the phone. For me this was a testament to the greatness of the American people despite various news reports and pundits. Acts of kindness such as those happened for us on each of our four touring seasons and continues to happen through community donations and in-kind support of bike parts, clothing and bikes. The kindness of others sustains us.

I recount those days because just a couple of weeks ago we took our training ride out to Maple View Farm. The Maple View Farm Ice Cream Shop has for a long time kept a drinking fountain outside of their shop to quench the thirst of people biking in the area. That’s a great act of kindness. Recently, they’ve added a much appreciated addition to their porch deck so that it extends around where the fountain was located. It wasn’t until this weekend that I realized that they simply moved the fountain to the other side of the building. Continuing their act of kindness to people who bike.

The Spotted Dog

Similarly, the church on Union Grove Church Road ran a water line near the road so that cyclists can quench their hard earned thirsts. This is where we met two ladies hanging out in the shade and changing a flat tire. As the youth replenished their water supply Tod and I walked up to see if we could help. Tod, in his amiable way, was able to assist in the replacement of the tube and using Tyvek from Tod’s universal bike kit to shore up the puncture in the tire. It worked like a charm and soon the conversation went from tire repair to everything else.

When we parted we were offered lunch on them at the Spotted Dog. A great place to eat in Carrboro for both vegans and carnivores. Yesterday we were able to take Linda and Karin up on their offer of lunch and use the gift certificate. Man! was it delicious! With nine people in our party we were pleasantly surprised to know that there was still room on the certificate to get dessert. Thankfully, there is never an end to the kindness of others.

Kids Are Amazing…

Kids start out as amazingly inquisitive individuals and if things go right then it’s a good possibility that they will become amazing adults, as well. The personal and institutional hurdles that some have to leap over supports the fact that they are amazing and resilient. I believe that adversity makes you stronger and helps you find deeper meaning in trivial things. Constant adversity can also give lend to the thought that everything is hard and who in their right mind wants to be jumping hurdles most of their life?

If I think back, I’ve been working with children my whole adult life. First opportunities were in Oklahoma reaching out to young males who didn’t have a stable family life. My first official volunteer service began in Tulsa OK with the National Urban League. I remember showing up to the offices and meeting a gentleman letting him know that I wanted to help. I’m not sure what I looked like as I stood there, all of 26 years, looking to give back but he was happy I was.

Rest Stop

I didn’t have the childhood that these kids did. I came from a two parent household with both parents working. I was very much, and still am, middle America. Some of these kids were abusing alcohol, illegal and legal drugs and some just had a disruptive home life. The youth coordinator and I were just trying to give them a little insight to something beyond their daily encounters. We chose golf as the medium for this effort. It was something so far removed from what they were accustomed to it kept their interest. Plus, Tiger Woods was all the rage back then.

Whatever reason they found themselves in front of me I realized one thing: these kids weren’t having what little bit of joy I had when I was their age and I considered my life “normal”. Looking back as an adult, other than my stable family life, financially we were just making it. But money doesn’t make happiness.

Organized sports through the school system is important and the benefits are well documented:

  • Higher self-esteem
  • Stress relieving
  • Helps develop discipline
  • Ability to transfer physical successes to academic successes
  • Develop teamwork and leadership skills
  • Develop motor skills and strategic thinking
  • Increases the quality of life through regular exercise
  • With all the above mentioned benefits it would be a natural thought to ensure that all children are able to participate in an organized sport while in school apart from physical education classes. But it’s not possible because as teams go you want to have the best players in order to be the best team. This competition leaves out a large group of youth from being involved. While park and recreation led organized sports help level the playing field it is still a pay to play dynamic.

    1st year cyclocross racers

    Back in my younger days I wanted to bring an opportunity to see things differently to a group of youth who sometimes had a very narrow outlook on life.

    Today I use the bicycle as the catalyst for change. I have seen for myself the positive and meditative effect that riding your bike across the country can have on an individual. The time spent on the road is transforming for the very simple reasons you would think it would. Perspective. The youth see the world up close. Not whizzing by from the back seat of a car. They are able to disengage from electronic stimuli while submitting themselves to a very simple routine: eat, ride, rest, ride, eat, relax, sleep, repeat. Sprinkled throughout are immersive* lessons in history told to them from the places where that history was made. Showing them the world outside their community to let them know how many opportunities await them if they can just imagine it.

    “I believe that children are our future” to borrow the lyrics from a George Benson song (sung by Whitney Houston). They are the generation that follows us to make the world either a better place or one of misery. I choose to gather people that want to teach them how to make the world a much better place than when they arrived.

    If you want to help us at Triangle Bikeworks do that come on aboard, get on your bike and let’s ride for a while and talk.

    *Immersive: images that deeply involve one’s senses and may create an altered mental state

    …Owed To The Volunteer

    According to the NPS, Volunteering is an American tradition that has made an immeasurable contribution to communities and organizations throughout the country. Those who volunteer are passionate about giving back to the neighborhoods and communities that they live in.

    In fact, where I work

    16.5 million

    Hours of volunteer services were logged by more than 250,000 IBM employees and retirees since 2003

    In addition to volunteerism, employees make personal donations to nonprofit organizations and schools in their communities through annual corporate campaigns. In one company alone last year, employees donated more than $7.3 million and the corporation matched many of those donations, contributing an additional $4 million. (I’d love to be catching the rain from that group of employees)


    Whether the assistance is flown in for international and national crises or it’s the neighbor helping a neighbor, all work is done at the community level with boots on the ground.  As a people, as human beings, it’s our innate desire to help make things better. To see that which CAN be and help make it happen.


    Volunteers are all around you. They’re not as noticeable as those who help out in a disaster. To them the disaster is right here in front of you and I. Seeing things in a way that others do not or cannot. To volunteers that’s the tragedy; of no one listening,of no one paying attention while there is a need. Volunteers sit on town boards, school boards, PTAs, coach sports, are community activists, or members of your neighborhood watch. These are people just trying to get things done about things that they believe in. 

    It is to the volunteers that we owe our thanks for their hard and diligent work.

    I sit on several youth focused and bike related boards in my Triangle (Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Durham). We are passionate about moving things forward for youth initiatives and I am in awe of the things my colleagues are able to accomplish. So, in my way, I’d like to say Thank You for those who give their time and money to advance the efforts of the causes at the East Coast Greenway Alliance, Youth Community Project, Chapel Hill/Carrboro Youth Forward, Bicycle Alliance Chapel Hill, the Carrboro Bike Coalition (I don’t sit, I just like what they do so I go and meet) and my personal favorite, Triangle Bikeworks.


    A special word of thanks goes out to Tod Andrews (the older young guy in the photo) who has been, and continues to be, an invaluable advocate for Triangle Bikeworks. His dedication and focus helps to ensure that the youth have the proper clothing, accessories and equipment through his coordination with the generous adult cyclists in the community. While we still have a long way to go before we have enough funds and equipment our summer tour, he works tirelessly at helping the kids reach that goal. I won’t say more because it will embarrass him but I would only add that we wouldn’t know how we’d have gotten to where we are now without him. He fills a much needed gap in our ability help these kids discover the best of who they can be.

    Thank you Tod.

    To The Volunteer In All Of Us
    For all of us
    who give a care,
    who read reports
    in the midnight air.
    Who give of their time
    and continue to give,
    so that many others
    can enhance and live.
    From feeding the hungry
    and the poor,
    To something quite current
    and much newer.
    Protecting the rights of youth
    who are LGBTQ,
    and finding them a new home
    which is so tragic, who knew?
    I offer you my thanks
    the best way I can,
    something more than the trite
    You are the man!
    Thank you, thank you!
    For all that you do.
    Because the world is a better place
    for me, you and you know who.

    Triangle Bikeworks is seeking volunteers for its youth programs as well as financial and in-kind donations for the youth’s cross country summer tour exploring the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor. The kids could really use your help in raising funds.