A Heart for Helping

 

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Trans-Canada Highway near St. John’s, Newfoundland

How can I capture or summarize the impact of ten weeks of continuous cycling. Each day, though it followed a similar pattern of “eat, sleep and bike, was filled with many impressions, unexpected events, chance encounters, spectacular views, heart breaking situations, terrorizing situations, sheer bliss, uplifting conversations, ABI challenges, and so much more.  The abundance of experiences will percolate in my thoughts for a long time.

One of the main threads is an increased appreciation for those living in poverty and an increased conviction that there are many roads out of poverty. The summer has been a learning experience as different solutions have become evident.

Learning by observing

 

Just like cycling across the widest country in North America takes commitment and a willingness to address challenges, so to does gaining a deeper understanding of poverty. Taking part in the Sea to Sea charity ride gradually expanded my awareness about and demonstrated ways to help to end the cycle of poverty. The ride has exposed me to big projects and simple acts of hope.

Cycling six days a week took me through variety of neighbourhoods, ranging from grotesque affluence to abject poverty. I probably didn’t see the worst situations because I cycled through communities that had roads. It makes one wonder how much worse it is in some northern communities where there is no road access and the community infrastructure leaves much to be desired.

This ride has heightened my own awareness of the many faces of poverty. I know I have only seen a glimpse of the visible side of poverty. The hidden faces of poverty can elude us unless someone points it out.

I need time to consider how my deeper awareness will change what I do. Change sometime begins in small ways.  Let me share one small example.

I do want to clarify that my acts of kindness are not the kinds of things I normally talk about. It’s not for me to announce or brag about what I do for someone else.

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,”  Matthew 6:3 NIV

As I reflect on my first day back home I realized that even in small ways I am recognizing the needs of others and feeling compelled to act.

I was in a grocery store yesterday. A capable looking senior was ahead of me at the checkout. He was struggling to fit all his groceries in a knapsack. He managed to put the remaining groceries in a second bag he had. I asked if he was biking home. His response was, “No, I’m walking.” When I heard where he lived I offered to take him to his house. He jumped at the offer, saying it would definitely save his legs.

On the ride over to his apartment building Ron, as he had introduced himself, commented about Cobourg being a ‘Nobourg’ kind of place. He had struggled all his life with jobs eventually ending up in Cobourg. Despite having some very marketable skills, each time a company restructured he was the low man on the totem pole and had to go look for employment elsewhere. His life long struggle was evident in the way he presented himself. His appreciation for the lift was heartfelt.

Learning by listening

At various times while cycling across the continent we listened to presentations about projects that had been initiated by local citizens wanting to address specific needs. Many of these projects were run by a small group of volunteers with minimal resources, yet determined to reach out and help. These were projects motivated by people who had a heart for others and were willing to give, give, give.

One community ran a coffee house in which they offered breakfast ‘free or by donation’ a couple times a week. Their facility was small but that didn’t stop them from running a second hand store as well.

Another community re-purposed a church transforming it from a single use place of worship to a multi-use, multi-denominational place of living out one’s Christianity. They lived their faith with the sense that work and worship should be one. It was a place that provided support for people in various ways. They provided shelter, ran a cafe and sold merchandise which had been made locally.

Each time we listened to a presentation we were shown another initiative that would bring a shimmer of hope back into the lives of the poor.

We also heard about projects being done by Partners Worldwide, one of the tour sponsors. Partners Worldwide does work in several developing countries. It’s the business model that they have adopted that I find most intriguing – they are intentional about ending the cycle of poverty. Or shall I say they are intentional about ending of dependency, getting people beyond relying on the kindness or generosity of others to hopefully meet their basic needs.

Partners Worldwide works with people by using the resources on hand to help a person or family become financially independent. They will mentor farmers so they can grow crops that are more productive and help them with getting quality produce to market. In some locations they will assist with fees to verify that the farmer has legal title to the land.

Partners Worldwide will also provide micro-loans so farmers have start up money. With the comprehensive support that is being offered, farmers are often able to repay the loan ahead of schedule.

The most encouraging part of this type of help, is that the farmers who succeed become mentors to others in the community. Living with regained dignity and new found hope, out of thankfulness they want to help others. You could say, helping people out of poverty becomes contagious.

Learning through conversation

When cycling through towns and villages it was very easy to get into conversations with people as people are going about their daily activities. The slow speed of a bike and the fact that bikes don’t have a barrier called a windshield, put me in direct contact with people.  Sometimes it was just a quick greeting and a couple of words. Other times it was a longer conversation in which a person shared their struggles or disappointments.

I got a sense that when a person shares their story there is an underlying sense of  hope. They might be describing their struggles but in sharing they told their story, a story of perseverance, a story of hope.

These were stories of celebration. These stories weren’t about a life of abundance, but rather one of simplicity, one of thankfulness because their basic needs are met. They were out and about. They were participating in their community.

The poor, those who have lost hope are not interested in sharing their story.  My sense is that once someone reaches out and partners with them they will begin to regain their self worth. As they start to feel the stirrings of hope they will begin to share their story.

A Cobourg initiative

for many people, poverty is only one mishap away. It might be a car breaking down and no longer being able to get to work. Repairing the car might mean there is not enough money for rent at the end of the month.

Last spring, a report was shared at a meeting in Cobourg. According to a survey conducted in the spring of 2017 there are over 1000 people in Northumberland County that are homeless. Some of those people are on the street. Some of those people are ‘couch surfing’. Some of those people are hidden from view in other ways.

Cobourg has a unique way of helping people with one of their essential needs. A group of volunteer have set up a ‘do it yourself’ shop to help community members with some basic transportation needs. Cycle Transitions helps community members acquire an affordable bike and teach them how to maintain it. The shop has volunteers who offer their experience with bicycle repair and take the time to teach cyclists to do their own repairs. Those who can’t afford a bike can earn one by volunteering at the shop and build up ‘sweat equity’ towards owning a bike.

I love this model of working with people who have minimal resources. It is empowering. Each person who works through Cycle Transitions not only gets a bike for basic transportation, but learns how to maintain a bike. They’ve earned the bike and have a vested interest and the knowledge to keep it in safe working order.

What’s next

I hope to explore ways in which I can make a difference for people who live in poverty. I started the ride with a general sense of it is good to help the poor. I completed the ride with a strong conviction that there are effective ways to help people. The dozen or so success stories I heard this summer means there are a thousand more untold success stories out there.

I will continue to promote awareness of ways in which we can work to end the cycle of poverty, one person or one family at a time.

The oldest rider who cycled with us the whole way was 81 years old. He has many years on me. Don’t be surprised when I find another opportunity to take on another cycling adventure that helps raise money and awareness about poverty. There will always be people who need and would welcome a hand up, a mentor or someone to partner with them.

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25: 35-40 NIV
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Simulating Poverty?

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Daily essentials

I will remember the summer of 2017 as the summer of adventure as I cycled across Canada. It was a charity tour to coincide with Canada’s 150th celebration. A charity to raise funds and awareness to help end the cycle of poverty.

One aspect of the tour included one member who shared a daily reminder informing us of the specific First Nation’s traditional lands we were camping on each night, unceeded territories, treaty territories or peace and friendship treaties.

It is not coincidental that much of the poverty we experience in Canada is among the first nations communities. A poverty of resources, a poverty of spirit, much of it a direct result of our collective short sighted understanding of what these treaties did not honour or failed to respect.

Shifted luxury

Many times during the tour I heard statements like this. By camping and living out of two laundry baskets we are living a simple life, a life that helps us better understand poverty.

We have left much behind to do this tour. Our beds at home have been empty for two months. The use of our house with all it’s appliances, furniture and yard have been abandoned for the summer.

My reflection

For me living in a tent with two laundry baskets holding all my essentials has been a life of abundance and may I even say luxury. I did not experience being deprived of my daily needs.

All summer I have had a campground arranged for me. All I needed to do is pitch my tent, a brief task each evening and pack up my tent each morning, a slightly longer task each morning.

In contrast to that my son and a friend spent more time this summer doing an emergency repair and basic maintenance on my house than spent setting up and taking down my tent.

Every day I had meals prepared for me by hard working volunteers. All I needed to do was walk up to the buffet table and enjoy a full course breakfast and supper each day. In return I would  wash my own plate and cup before applauding the hardworking volunteer staff.

Each night I had a place to sleep. I had a tent that was dry or a few times I was offered a billet for a night or two. Sleeping outdoors in a weather tight tent has left me refreshed and healthy.

Each day I have had over six hours available to do a ‘gym’ workout while viewing the most amazing and varied vistas that anyone could ask for. Even a high tech gym with quality video wouldn’t compare to the real life experience of smells, sounds, temperature variations, breezes and headwinds. In other words, a multi-media experience could never match the multi-sensory experience. And each day I was congratulated for having put in another great day of commendable effort.

Each day I have experienced the support of a SAG (support and gear) team providing refreshments every 25 kilometers with other people along the road to ensure everything was well. On top of that each turn was clearly marked so as not to let me get lost.

While living out of a laundry basket and a tent I had the benefit of the best technology. I could post pictures of my adventure to Facebook, update my blog on a fairly regular basis. When my cell phone ‘died’ I was up and running again by the end of the day with a better cell phone, a better plan and at a reduced cost.

Poverty

Poverty to me is living a life of uncertainty. Living a life in which each set back becomes another insurmountable burden. Living a life where no one else seems to care. Living a life that has no relief in sight.

Simulated poverty?

I will be the first to admit, that the way I lived this summer did very little to make me more aware of what it is like to live in poverty. Living supported, cared for, provided for, looked after and then given additional consideration when I was experiencing difficulty is for me the furthest thing away from poverty.

However, this charity ride had raised my awareness of poverty. An awareness that has come not from experience as much as it has come from observation. As the tour moved through different regions of Canada, one would have to be blind to not notice the demise in certain regions. One would have to be blind to not see the contrast with the affluent regions.

The signs of contrast are sometimes the seriously dilapidated condition of houses or outbuildings. Other times is was the proliferation of high end cars in the driveway. Somehow it was usually evident when we cycled through a First Nations community. If it wasn’t the condition of the neighbourhood, it would be the increased presence of police or the lack of community services.

Catholic after affect

In cycling through the villages and towns of Quebec the focal point was consistently the Catholic place of worship, sometimes a cathedral, other times a church of less grand proportions. It’s like you could assess the standard of living of a community as a whole by the size of the Catholic focal point. The traditional houses within the town or village would all be very similar.

In a time when the Catholic church was a vibrant part of the community, the poor would be looked after, the rich would contribute to the church. The wealth of the community for the most part would not be seen in the statement of affluence represented by individual houses, but rather in the size of the church.

Presentations

For me the presentations done by Partners Worldwide and World Renew was the most effective awareness raising for me. In sharing their stories I realized that my living situation this summer exemplified luxury and more to the point, privilege. The presentations showed time and again that as the issue of poverty was understood and then addressed, that people began to live with a sense of hope.

It’s the poverty of spirit, and the conditions that create a sense of hopelessness that needs to be addressed. Hearing  about projects where people and families are mentored, provided with resources and training helps me begin to understand the amazing impact we can make.

A spirit of hope develops when we work with the poor in a way that shows a love for neighbour – respecting their dignity, recognizing their skills, befriending them ending the injustice that has deprived them of self-worth and in that way push aside the spirit of poverty.

My life of luxury and privilege will continue when I move out of my tent and back into my house. I will be more conscious of looking for ways to bring hope to those living in poverty.

Fort Qu’Appelle – SK

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Dream Big – Fort Qu’Appelle mural

Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan.

July 17, 2017 was my first time in Fort Qu’Appelle. I had ridden to Fort Qu’Appelle with my cycling buddy, a short 80 km ride from Regina. We had traveled down some quiet roads, enjoying the tranquility of the open skies. It was likely the rough condition of the road that accounted for the lack of traffic.

20170717_090056As I was cycling along I noticed a highway maintenance truck waiting along the side of the road. I stopped to talk with the operator when I noticed he was driving a tarring rig. I asked if the plan was to tar the road today. His response was, “Yes, we got to fix this highway.” I expressed surprise that he called it a highway. If this is considered a highway then we don’t have much hope for what it called the Trans-Canada Trail.

I was assured that the tarring wouldn’t begin till all the cyclist had passed this point They were still waiting for the tar which was scheduled to arrive in about an hour. This being Saskatchewan that would likely mean a three hour wait.

When we arrived in Fort Qu’Appelle, having ridden with a tailwind most of the way, I decided to stop for a blizzard at the local DQ. We rode through the drive-through but got no response. Turns out they were open but busy getting things set up for the day. I warned the staff of two that there were about eighty riders headed into the town. Within the next forty-five minutes the place was overrun by almost half of the cyclist.

After setting up my tent I hiked into town with my riding buddy. Two blocks in we reached Broadway Ave. Judging by the layout this was definitely the main street. With a Bargain Store a half a block from the Dollar Store there were some obvious signs of entrepreneurial competition in town.

20170717_130914After meeting several friendly and welcoming locals in our stroll along Broadway, we encountered a quiet park with a Four Season mural. Some first nations women from Sandy Lake just four miles up the road picked up conversation with us. They liked the idea of posing for a picture. They had found a spot in the shade, probably their regular spot and had almost finished their bottle of rum by noon. I had the clear impression that they spent most of their time in this parkette between two stores. Other than a bench in the shade and a mural there was nothing else there. You could say they had each other.

We passed the local hardware store which seemed well stocked with up to date equipment. Of interest was a fold up 160 watt solar panel and controller for $499. The attendant was explaining how this could be hooked up to 3 or 4 deep cycle batteries and maintain the power needed for an RV.

What caught my interest even more was a pickup and trailer parked on the side street beside the hardware store. The signage on the back of the trailer – Vermin Exterminator – caught my interest. The way the trailer was parked and packed up it looked like to school desk like arrangement one set behind the other. I decided that I would prefer to be the person sitting on the back ‘desk’. I knew I definitely wouldn’t want to be the driver when everything was set up.

As we were looking at the trailer, the owner Ron walked up. Turns out his well known no-name business provides a much desired service – exterminating gophers, beavers, coyotes and skunks. He set up one of his stations with a holder for his gun, and just as important a flag so he can keep an eye on the wind speed and direction. (Assured him that as cyclists we were well aware of the havoc that the wind could cause.) The ‘desks’ as well as the gun stand were on a swivel. Next to the gun is a counter. His record is eliminating 740 gophers in one day.

Being that the trailer is designed as a two person operation, Ron said he is very particular who he takes along as his shooting buddy. He always takes the back seat – smart guy. As the back seat guy he swivels in a 180 degree arc over the back of the trailer. The person in the front seat swivels in a 180 degree arc towards the front of the trailer. If the operator accidentally hits the truck Ron reasons that it can be replaced. It’s a bit harder to replace a fellow operator.

Found a health food store so I could pick up some Nuun, an electrolyte to keep me sustained while riding during the extreme ride days. They also had some iodine for internal use. It was great to see a store carrying quality health vitamins and supplements.

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Hudson Bay Co. 1897

While taking a picture of an original Hudson Bay Company store I was cautioned by Leon a First Nations local. As he drove by me he stopped and said, “Hey man, you got to be careful.” I was crouched beside a flower planter in the middle of Broadway. After he parked his car he was proudly giving me the history of the Hudson Bay Company store. Clearly the store had been repurposed. He was adamant that another stone building just around the corner was even older.

As I was walking away from Leon I mentioned I was looking for a bike shop. He directed me to the pawnshop which he assured me had both tires for sale as well as bikes. I kindly declined as I wasn’t sure how reliable their stock might be. I wasn’t able to find a bike shop in town. I might have to wait till we get to Yorkton.

20170717_132648Walking along we soon found ourselves in front of the Peace Hills Trust building, a Star – Blanket – Cree – Nation building. The signage indicated some helpful services for the indigenous population for the area, the Cree. The sign indicated that the building housed the Treaty Land Entitlement Office. The other offices in the building included Sask First Nations Safety Assoc., Q-Bow Child and Family Services Inc. and the office for Red Dog Holding. The sub-text on the sign was “Advocators of Community & Personal Developments.

I found a Coop at the end of Broadway’s business strip. My only reason for going in was to satisfy my longing for some orange juice. I decided that a 1.75 litre bottle for $2.70 was a better deal than a half litre bottle for $3.25. I would have no problem downing the whole 1.75 litre bottle before the afternoon was done.

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Eddie’s favourite bakery

In front of the Valley Bake & Coffee Shop, known for it’s Bavarian Pastries we met Eddie. As he approached the bakery door he stopped and waited. He seemed curious about seeing two ‘strangers’ in town. We got to talking. He was retired for 3 year but couldn’t believe he was that old already. He had been farming but now wasn’t able to work. The farm work had taken a toll on his body.

In the 1990’s Eddie and his brother were running a beef farm of 240 head of cattle. A few years ago, due to drought conditions he was forced to sell most of his herd. He had been farming for a couple years with his herd reduced to 40 head. When he couldn’t make ends meet he sold seven quarter sections, the last of his land, for $150,000. A few years earlier he had gotten $75,000 for a section of land. When he moved off the farm he still owed money on a farm.

Eddie wished he still had his herd of cattle because today the price for beef are very good. He’s getting used to living in town and enjoys coming to the Bavarian bakery. He is reluctant to buy goods there because then he needs to work it off.

Fort Qu’Appelle is not much different from many other towns we have cycled through. Particularly the smaller towns. There are many places where the contrast between wealth and poverty can be seen. While there were no indications of it being a thriving town, the realty office showcased properties ranging from half million to a couple million. Obviously they were catering to a very select market.

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Ron’s Roost

Later in the day when I biked ten kilometers along Echo Lake I realized why they had a high end selection of houses. That’s where I saw some whimsical stuff like a toilet at the end of a driveway.

The main highway highlighted many of the recognized national franchises. If one is driving through the area the real character of the town remains hidden. The heart of the town could be seen two kilometers off the highway. In the downtown section one can enjoy local baking, cooking and friendly service but best of all was meeting the interesting local folk.

Meanwhile we are set up with tents and campers housing the 90 riders and support staff making the local elementary school look like a refugee camp. The refugee camp appearance hides the reality of who are housed there overnight. The appearance of poverty and transience is only incidental. We have the privilege and luxury to move on as we choose.

We are riding and raising money to help end the cycle of poverty both here in Canada and in other parts of the world. To more fully appreciate the purpose of Sea to Sea it is helpful to meet and speak with people who are dealing with poverty – whether that is poverty of spirit, or economic poverty.

It’s interesting to note that the bison is a mere skeleton, yet against that background someone had the courage to still dream big. To me, the skeleton represents the depletion of  personal, family and ancestral resources due to years of mistreatment by European settlers with whom they thought they were sharing the land and its resources.

What will it take to change the story for out first nations people as we recognize Canada as a nation for the past 150 years?

Bewdley, Ontario at Sunrise

Bewdley, Ontario at Sunrise
Mysterious Mist on Rice Lake

It is well worth cycling 25 km before going to work. Going from 2 weeks of just eat, cycle and sleep, being back at work is like trading a simple life for a complex and busy life..

Don’t get me wrong. What’s not to like about my job working with a great faculty and support staff and anticipating the return of eager students. That’s all great.
Two days ago I met Joey when I stopped briefly in Bewdley at the waterfront. Joey had been there with his bike since about 3:30 am because he was unable to sleep.
Joey’s life story is one of disappointment and hope. Due to a work accident he had been left a quadrapalegic. After more than 1 bout of cancer he was determined to get back on his feet. That is how I met him, once again being able to walk and cycle.
He can manage to bike 3 km a day or handle a weedwhacker for about an hour. He can’t lift objects. His life sure seems simpler than mine. He takes more time to enjoy the spectacular sunrise over the water. A simpler life at first glance but at the same time not without considerable challenges.
It was my 2 weeks of cycling that raised My awareness and compelled me to strike up a conversation with him and at the same time being encouraged by him.

The Message of the Church and Poverty

On Sunday morning most of the 125 cyclists found their way to the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul in the heart of Montreal. Here we were welcomed into a church that is taking it’s calling seriously about being the hands and feet of Christ in ministering to the poor.

The message was shared by the Rev. Dr. Glenn Smith who is the executive director of Christian Direction. It was his message more than is title that left a mark on me.

The key point of his message is that poverty is not an economic matter. Poverty is not a matter of lack of money. Poverty is a matter of relationship, it’s a matter of connection. That’s why poverty is inter-generational.

In speaking about Jeremiah’s letter to the Israelites who were taken into the Babylonian captivity, the message was, despite the shame of being taken out of the promised land, make Babylon your home – build in it, make it their own. Or as he put it more succinctly, work diligently for the peace of the foreign city, the city of your oppressors. He challenged them to intercede for the wellbeing and peace of Babylon.

The job of Christians is to pray for the leaders, for the elected officials and to help them bring about an order so that the poor, the orphan’s, the strangers and the widows are taken care of. That there is a place that meets the needs of all the people who make up the community.

What would happen if each and every Christian took this message seriously? What would be different?

I believe more of us would be focused on face to face relationship with those who experience poverty. We would be able to put a face to it and name it. We would be able to provide hope, one at a time to people who live in poverty.

I believe more of us would recognize how systemic change is needed so that the focus is less on GNP and more on quality of life, policies that are there to help those who need support, socially, educationally etc. One indicator of this would be a decreasing gap between the earnings of the rich and the poor. It’s not the money difference that counts, but rather, leaving time and resources for each person in the community to be able to access.

I believe more of us would have our eyes opened and see how our misuse of resources, usually motivated by greed or a desire to take care of ourselves very well, is denying opportunity and resources for others. How does our purchasing of goods we don’t really need contribute to sweat shop labour? How does our discarding of cheap things we buy contribute to the gradual devastation of the earth, creating pollution, defacing of creation and destruction of habitats that support life.

I believe more of us would recognize the idea of having enough. Having enough goods to look after our needs (as opposed to wants), having enough time to connect with others in our community, having enough time to see and reach out to those who are isolated, either through their own doing or being intentionally shunned by the community.

The big idea of the Sea to Sea ride to end the cycle of poverty is not the money it raised. The big idea is creating a personal awareness of what poverty really is and then making personal lifestyle changes to change the reality that grows out of that awareness. The money raised ($1.8 million to date) can be the catalyst to help fund systemic change or provide resources to empower those who experience poverty.

Break the cycle of poverty – in the name of Christ – that is the liberating message.

On the way to church on Sunday morning, I drove through the Mohawk village of Kahnawake and saw “no casino” stickers in many places. That surprised me because in my experience, because many casinos that I recognize are on Indian reservations. The “no casino” signs arised out of an understanding that casinos create systemic problems. The community of Kahnawake have citizens who understand that message.

The “no casino” stickers is one sign of hope. The challenge is to look around and recognize other signs of hope, signs that challenge the systems that make poverty an engrained reality.

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The Power of Encouragement

Its been more than a week of cycling. There have been groups of people greeting us as we rode along. At times whole communities came out to show their support and encourage the cyclists in their endeavours.
When the support and encouragement is personalized it bumps things up to a higher level. As the tour entered Ontario I was getting into familiar territory. The first encounter of personalized support occurred in the Sarnia community. Meeting professional colleagues and former room mates wasthe first taste of this.
As I entered London my two daughters had gone all out to show their support for the cyclists and for myself. They had helped mark the route through London and helped organize refreshments. In addition to that they had written personal nots with sidewalk chalk to encourage their dad.
The day we rode from Ajax to Trenton bumped up the personal support to a higher level. The stop at Hope Fellowship in Courtice gave me an opportunity to hear words of encouragement from the large community where I have worked as vice principal and principal for the past 23 years.
Arriving 2 hous later at Grace Church in Cobourg brought cheers of support from my worshipping community and friend. Wow, what a boost.
This is also the community in which on friend had bumped up my commitment to ride 10 percent of the tour on unicycle by challenging me to do one day as a 50 km ride. I decide that the day I would ride through Cobourg would be the day I would attempt the 50 km unicycle challenge.
I left Grace Church at about 12:30. The weather was great, the next stretch of road was relatively level. So I set off. My youngest daughter agreed to ride with me. Great company and reliable support.
All went fine the first little while. No UPD’s, no major hills. But then at the 10 km mark a spoke broke. Since I did not have a spare spoke I had no choice but to take out my spare unicycle. The step down from a 36″ wheel to a 26″ wheel. It’s kinf like putting the “donut” on your car to get you to the nearest gas station when you blow at tire.
A smaller unicycle meant working much harder. Instead of covering 10 feet with eacg stroke of the pedal I was only able to cover about 6 feet. That means my top speed had dropped from 18 km / hr down to about 11 km / hr.
I arrived in Brighten after a volunteer had come looking for me. He reported back to the Brighton church. When I rolled in there still a handful of volunteers to greet me. They had put some refreshments aside. One of the volunteers, Doug was so thrilled at me arrival that he didn’t want to go home. After a big hug from him he figured out that a cycle shop in Bloomfield would be able to repair the 36″ unicycle. Since it was close to closing time Doug and my wife Jane made a dash for it.
Meanwhile I was contemplating whether to continue. What to do. Since I had about 35 km behind me I decided to push on. After a brief discussion about the condition of the route, my daughter and I pushed on.
At this point the pedalling wasn’t going any easier or faster. The rest stops were becoming more frequent, that did create opportunities to talk to people about the purpose of the tour and the reason for unicycling. (Read the purpose in a earlier blog) On one such rest stop in Colborne a fellow Christian made a $20 donation to the cause.
When we were about 8 km from our destination we found out that the bike shop in Bloomfield had managed to patch the broken spoke. After asking if they could bring us the unicycle Doug figured he knew where to find us. (Cell phone tech is sure great) In short order Doug and my wife Jane arrive.
With the larger wheel under me again we were able to pick up the pace. At 7:30 we rolled into the Trenton Christian School.
The kitchen crew had kindly set aside a plate of supper for us.
In reflecting on this experience it makes me realize that there are many people who do not experience the support of a community. Many who are caught in a cycle of poverty are working doubly hard with no end in sight. At some point all hope fades.
In our small group discussion we briefly touched on the quote, “The poor you will always have with you.” We can take that quote in a number of ways. One response that one member in the group received was, “Why do anything since the poor will always be with us.” Our small group agreed that our response needs to be just the opposite. Our challenge is to change our lifestyle so that continually considering the needs of the poor becomes the first step in how we live.
For each person that we can help, we have ended the cycle of poverty for that one person.
Thanks for the support, the encouragement and the prayers.

A Sabbath Rest

After a week of biking this was a welcome day of rest. After breakfast I cycled down to the General hospital where my mother had been admitted on Monday. Thankfully she seems to be doing well with the tests coming back with encouraging results. She hopes to learn more from her doctor on Monday. My father has been making the 45 minute ride each day, getting there by noon and visiting till 6:00.

It was an exhilerating ride into the downtown coming down the escarpment, or ‘the mountain’ as the locals call it. The ride back of course presented a challenging climb. I took the advice of a street person with an old bike and made my way up West 5th St. Having to drop into a very low gear I wondered if the person advising me had actually ridden p that hill. Arriving back at Redeemer I was surprisedto see I had cycled 35km. So much for a day of rest.

I got Back in time for the celebration service. As the cyclists entered en mass into thr Redeemer auditorium  we were welcome by a packed house. The energy and enthusiasm of the crowds singing and worshipping together was truly encouraging and supportive.

The keynote speaker shared his story 20 years of working with the poor in downtown Hamilton. He shared how poverty has a face and helping begins by building a relationship and begining to love the people you help and get to know their story.

It was great to see my two brothers, Rick and George with his wife Yolanda. It was also heart warming to receive words of encouragement from colleagues and other friends.

Looking forward to this second week. We will leave early Monday morning and conquer Toronto with the goal of arriving at the Ajax Community Centre by mid afternoon. Just got to keep the lake on our right, we were advised, if we hope to find Ajax.