The experiences enjoyed on the journey have been presenting themselves at a pace I’ve never before witnessed. Each and every moment of the day contains elements of something new, yet they’re met with a familiarity of sorts, hence the title for this post, “Like a Virgin”. And if you know the next line of the famous Madonna song, sing it to yourself. If you don’t know it, here’s some help:
…Touched for the very first time
That last line is the perfect example of how this journey has been so far. Take it a step further and replace ‘touched’ with any other actionable word associated with a sense.
Over the last few days, in jest I’ve told myself that I would scream if met with yet another friendly, open and kind, warm, generous-hearted Canadian. If I had kept my word, I wouldn’t be able to talk, my voice too hoarse to make audible sounds. These sorts of people are abundant and plentiful in this part of the world.
Here are a few examples with an accompanying story:
- Tired and hungry I pulled up to a fresh fruit, homemade jam and preserves shop along side of Lake Ontario in a area named the “Fruit Belt”. Almost immediately before even saying hi and hello the attendants (a brother and sister team) called from inside, “Hey, you need a re-fill on water? Take that bench over there, sit down and rest. We’ve got a couple sample baskets of fruits, they’re yours if you’d like. Take as much as you need.”
Hospitality and generosity first, then came the usual pleasantries:
“What is your name? Where are you coming from? Where are you going? What brings you to this part of the world?”. In an instant I no longer felt like a traveler, and more like friends that haven’t seen each other in a long time, bringing news from afar. Not just any news or tidings, my news, my stories. The rest you can just watch and read on the news or TV. Here and now, not later and over there.
- Garage sales in Canada. At some point during the second day of riding I felt a sudden and sharp pain in my knee. Every rotation of the pedal brought another stabbing sensation to my right knee. I continued on, adjusting my cadence (pedaling rhythm), posture, position, etc. Nothing helped. I needed to stop and rest and most importantly I needed to ease the pain.
It was Sunday, and I had noticed several signs announcing garage sales along the route. I’ve had plenty of luck before in Dallas, finding useful items at great prices, why not give it a shot now? Not finding any pharmacies or drug stores along the way, it somehow made sense. Pushing on, I was hoping to find an Ace bandage, wrap or brace at one of the sales.
Not five minutes later I made a left turn into a neighborhood, hopped off the bike and walked up to an elderly couple sitting on the porch sipping soda. Their daughter was busy in the garden pulling weeds and planting flowers. With heavy accents (Ukranian/Polish? Don’t ask how or why I know this) I was greeted and ushered into the garage. More pleasantries and conversation ensued while Mom showed off their various ‘for sale’ articles and which ones were NOT for sale.
Bingo! It took all of one minute to find my prize, a clean and almost brand new Ace bandage. The price, fifty cents. Having found what I was after, I dug around for a while longer hoping to find something more.
What great luck! Or was it luck? After everything else that’s happened this trip, I don’t think it’s luck at all, it’s just a matter of putting yourself out there. Do that, and the world will conspire to provide aide. Providence. Look that word up, it’s very important.
Not finding anything else, I sat down on the garage floor to wrap my knee. At some point during the conversation I had mentioned “Faces for Change Ride”, Malaria No More and the intentions for this epic cycling adventure.
“Hello? Uh…where is everyone?”. I looked up and neither of my hosts where to be seen. I felt a little strange sitting by myself in the garage fussing with the bandage that I still hadn’t paid for, when all of a sudden both mother and daughter emerge from the house with smiles, gabbing expressively with a certain quality of apologetic frame surrounding their faces. “Here you go, it’s not much, but it’s worth a few cups of hot coffee when you need it”… and with that, they handed me a $2 coin and a $5 bill. Somewhere between “You don’t pay” and “Please take anything you need” I managed to squeak out a thank you. Had I not been offered a cold glass of iced ginger ale immediately following their gesture, I might have been able to sound off with a more suitable and sturdy voice of thanks. For fear of letting my emotions grab a bolder hold of my conscience, I declined the latter offer. Jumping up from the garage floor, while trying to maintain my aims for a successful thank you I simply reached out to already open arms and gave Mom a hug and a kiss.
And goddammit…she should or could have stopped there, but didn’t. Her parting words for me were as follows:
“No need to give us thanks. We’re the ones that are thankful. We’re blessed to have met you. Good luck on your journey”.
- The Canadian roughneck (contractor, builder, mason, painter)
A few hours later, I’m now making my way around the “Golden Horseshoe”, which is the Eastern shore of Lake Ontario en route to Toronto. It’s been sunny, rainy, sunny again and it’s now raining…again. Wind, no wind. Gentle breeze, clouds, no clouds…it’s tough to gauge the weather around here. Traffic is moving at a steady but cautious pace.
“Hey man! Do you need some “night jammin’ blahbetyblah’s…” – “What? I can’t hear you”. I slowed down and came to a stop wondering what in the world was in store for me now. Some random guy in a pickup truck was talking to me out of the passenger window. Pulling up ahead of me, he stopped. “Do you need some “night jammin’ glasses?’, he said, waiving a pair of clear, un-tinted, plastic, wrap- around glasses in the air. “They’re great for night riding, they’ll keep the rain and bugs out of your face and they cut down on glare…Here, take these, I get them for free from work. In fact, take two pairs in case one breaks or you lose ‘em”.
Once again, I’m witnessing kindness and generosity in a way I’ve never experienced before. In that sense, I feel kinda like a virgin.
I also feel that it begs to ask the following question: Are these random acts of kindness or deliberate acts of compassion? The take away from this is I don’t think it matters that much. Yes, there is a big difference between the two and they revolve around opportunity. We wait for the right moment to say thanks. We wait for the right moment to do or display some good wanting for it to not go to waste. We want to be acknowledged for what we’ve done and given praise.
Well, here’s a challenge for you all this week. Instead of waiting for that moment, go out and get it. It’s yours to claim and you don’t need anyone’s permission. Just go and do it. Stop waiting, there are opportunities all around. If you can’t find one, make one. Know that it starts with you, it starts from within us.
If there is a single word that strikes me as being the most pertinent in this context, it would be:
Demiurge (noun): A being responsible for the creation of the universe. Maker or Creator of the world.
In doing this cycling ride I’m creating my own adventure and creating my own world. I create my own opportunities and seize those made available to me. I’m encouraging everyone to do the same.