Today I was asked by several people about riding in the rain. One friend I saw asked with outright concern, “you’re riding in this?” Then she caught herself and added, “but I guess you’re used to it.” Yes, today was a coldish, wet, nasty, rainy day. And yes, I might have rather stayed home. But in the first place, there was a special song I wanted to sing with my choir, and in the second place, I was hoping to see a good friend, and finally, today was Cranksgiving Day. In light of all of that, and the fact that I have very inconveniently decided to bicycle commute all this year, I decided to brave the rain.
I have a rain jacket, I have a dry bag, I have a bike. Sometimes I have to windshield-wiper my glasses with my index finger, but really, in the grand scheme of things, this is nothing. Just yesterday a friend reminded me that on any given day while cycling along the greenway you might see fifteen or twenty homeless people hunkering down for the night, or waking up for the day (I’ve seen that myself). I have a place to rest my head and a warm living room that holds three bikes. I don’t have much compared to some, but I have so much. Somehow lately, this has been on my mind a lot.
I was aware of that while singing the song Gratitude this morning.”For we are blessed beyond what we could ever dream in abundance or in need.” I’ve been thinking about the life I live and the friends that have come into it in recent years and I feel sometimes awed by all that this life has laid on my doorstep. It’s more than I ever dreamed, even when I feel we are having a tough time.
I was aware when I was having lunch with my good friend Susan. We’ve been friends since perhaps the week after I got to Charlotte, and we’ve seen so much change in our lives, we’ve raised children and shared struggles and joys. Sunday lunch is kind of our thing, and I’ve missed it lately.
And finally, I was aware of it when I showed up for Cranksgiving, which is a scavenger hunt style race–aka an alleycat race. In this case we were to pick up food to donate to loaves and fishes. I almost didn’t go because I came home from lunch and thought to myself, “nah, nobody will ride in this weather.” Even the cycling crazies (I commonly refer to many of the folks in my cycling community as the cycling crazies) won’t brave this weather to ride around town picking up food for donations. In such cases, we all consider our own comfort first.
I checked the weather map at home and it looked like not just a rainstorm had blown in, but perhaps the storm of the century was here. I changed my clothes, dreaded the wet ride, went out on the porch with Luke the dawg, asked him what he thought. Then I came back in and changed my mind five times before throwing on all my gear and riding out into the wet and nasty afternoon. As I left home the rain had slowed to no more than a drizzle. But by the time I turned out of my neighborhood at the bottom of the hill, it started picking up, and by the time I made it up the hill and over to The Comet Bar and Grille where the race was supposed to end–where I was volunteering to help organize the event, I was very happy for my rain jacket. I pulled up and tucked my bicycle under an umbrella outside. I pulled off my layers and went in to order coffee. I spent most of the afternoon with a whole bunch of cool people. Since I wasn’t racing, I went over with my friend Melissa and bought groceries to donate. Then we just chatted and waited for the arrival of the riders.
Finally they started showing up. I was a little blown away by the bags of groceries they’d managed to tow around Charlotte in all that rain. Marley with her trailer, and everyone else with their giant, heavy panniers. Every one of those riders came in drenched and smiling.
I loved that, the drenched and smiling part. Not one of these cycling crazies came in drenched and complaining or drenched and frowning. Everyone smiled–including the youngest among them, 13 year old Jessica–pulled off their outerwear, weighed their groceries….celebrated.
Is it hard to ride in the rain? I’ve been asked that question today. The truth? It is not. The hard part of riding in the rain is the very first part. The hard part ofriding in the rain is saying, “yes, I’ll do it.” It’s the radical YES that is hard…the agreeing to go beyond your comfort zone and into new and sometimes uncomfortable territory. Today we had a small group. Because of the rain last year’s 40 riders turned into this year’s 9. But this year’s nine who said the radical YES to riding around town collecting food showed up drenched and smiling. They drug in the mother-load of loaves and fishes donations (343 lbs), they ate supper and had beer together and made a little magic happen right now in this moment, which after all is all that we are promised in the first place.