THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS
Once again I find myself utterly gobsmacked. It’s happened a fair few times on my cycle, and my jaw is now starting to bruise from hitting the floor so often. It’s 6.30am and I’m snoring away in my tent, camped out by an eery deserted town. I stir awake to the sounds of twigs breaking outside my tent and immediately my heart rate doubles. Then a voice calls out “It’s Mitch here, hello?”. Phew! Mitch is a local cowboy, and a top notch chap. I scoot across to unzip my tent and ice breaks off of the canvas. It’s cold. Very cold.
I’m still cocooned in my mummy sleeping bag, refusing to let freezing air anywhere near me. As I look up Mitch is standing there with his cowboy hat holding a flask and two cups. He opens the flask and the welcome aroma of fresh coffee wipes away some of my sleepiness. Pouring some into a cup for me while I squint at the bright light, he explains “I couldn’t go the day without knowing that you were OK, because that’s just the way. I like to know that people are OK”. Often in life we get caught up in things and forget how meaningful a simple gesture like this really is. How good people really are. Mitch’s thoughtfulness still makes me smile days on, and will years on. It’s these little things, these bright and brilliant moments that make my cycle across the USA so rich.
It has been a fascinating journey so far for a number of reasons. But today I want to talk about people. I’ve met a fair few whilst cycling the 1150 miles so far, and two things in particular have struck me. One is the kindness of strangers. The other is the overwhelming number of people with the will to work towards a healthy, happy planet.
Whilst planning my cycle a fair few eyebrows were raised in my direction. Travelling alone through both vast cities and empty wilderness, many were concerned about the reception I would have along the way, and the type of people I may encounter. It’s safe to say that the kindness, generosity and great welcome mere strangers have given all along the journey has blown me away. People are innately good. I have been taken in, fed, showered, told fascinating tales and belly laughed louder than I ever have before. My cheeks hurt from smiling so much at the brilliant characters and goodwill shown by them. From epic cycle stories over a morning coffee, to route advice, charity donations, free B&B rooms (Thanks Gary!), bike repairs, the amazing online support on Facebook and Twitter, and even a winter sleeping bag given to me by Buzz in case it snows in the mountains (my fortune cookie seems to have predicted that one the night before!) the list goes on and on.
People like to do good, and like to support a great cause. Which brings me on to the second observation I have had. And this is something very uplifting. Of the hundreds of people I have met thus far one thing is common in nearly all, that is the will to build towards fixing the issues we face with the environment, disease and the wellbeing of people around the globe. They all have a similar desire to this end. They want to take steps to help, but are unsure of whether their individual effort will make a difference, and thus they say they don’t take action. So here is a message from me to you – imagine if all of you took action at the same time, and what a powerful force for change that would be. Don’t discount yourself as being to small to make a change. Whether it’s recycling, supporting great initiatives and charities, acting on issues such as trafficking, clean water and sanitation for all, breast cancer awareness, doing Movember, whatever your passion may be, do it! Wear you passion. The positive will to make a better place is everywhere, I witness it every day as I travel onwards. We all live on this phenomenal planet, and as such we are all in the same boat. If there is a hole in this boat we are all affected. So remember the immense power of working collectively and taking action. It will make you smile, I promise!
That all said, here’s an almighty THANK YOU to all those who have supported this journey so far in every way. You know who you are.
Mitch brought me a coffee early one morning to check I was safe and OK
Leonard called all his state troopers to ask for safe places to pitch my tent
Nancy spent some hours helping me route plan and painstakingly count milage
Fenton brought me tales of cycling, an extra inner tube and some chain grease
Stan and Peggy took me in and gave me an early Thanksgiving meal