Going into this post, I had lots of hesitations. Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I’m generally a pretty outgoing person. I have no fear of being in a large crowd, I enjoy small talk and I’ll introduce myself to just about anyone. I’m as extroverted as it gets and I love people, but still the idea of writing for an audience or anything related to communicating my ideas to an audience freaks me out. I shut down, I procrastinate, I avoid it at all costs. To be honest, I know that this fear is a bit irrational, especially for me.
When the other guys going on the ride first came up with the idea of writing individual posts about why we ride, I showed excitement on the surface and panicked inside. It started to hit me that this whole summer I would be sharing my feelings, my experiences, and my beliefs with you. This was not something I would typically volunteer for. The bike tour would be uncomfortable enough. Why would I, a person with such a fear of large audiences, also put myself through something so public?
In the summer of 2015, I was headed to Korah, Ethiopia for a medical humanitarian aid trip. I had already been working for I Pour Life for about six months. I knew the ins and the outs of our 10×10 program, but I had no clue what things were really like halfway across the world. All I had ever known about Korah was what I had read and seen in pictures. Although the stories were enough to get me there, it wasn’t until I stepped foot inside the village and met these amazing women that I realized how urgent their needs were.
I spent days handing out prescription glasses to individuals; person after person, child after child. Each time I provided vision for another person, they knelt down and blessed me with prayers for long life and health. These were individuals that literally had nothing and yet still had so much hope. Hope in the middle of terrible sickness, hope while living in a bankrupt economy, and hope while the risk of losing their children was still a reality. For days, I spent my time listening to these women’s stories, walking through the village, and helping in any way I could. I was taken back by the amount of poverty that surrounded me and the joy that these individuals had in the midst of it.
In addition to extreme poverty, many of the women in Korah suffer from leprosy, an infectious disease that causes severe, disfiguring skin sores and nerve damage in the arms and legs. These were the images that stayed with me after the trip. When all was said and done, I had handed out over 500 pairs of glasses and witnessed many more individuals receiving some sort of acute medical care, but the reality was that these women needed so much more than the little we were able to offer in two weeks time.
I tell this story because, at the end of it all, I came back to the U.S., back to my comfortable home, and back to my comfortable job. While I got to come back to great food, air conditioning, clean water, a stable home, and a comfy bed, those women and children stayed behind in Korah. I couldn’t help but ask myself “What did I do to deserve this comfort?” or better yet, “What was I doing with all the opportunities I was born with?”
When Jesse proposed the idea of not only doing a bike tour, but doing a bike tour for charity, and not only doing a bike tour for charity, but for the families in Korah, I had to confront those questions. Did I really want to use my bike tour as a platform? Immediately, I realized that this decision and any decision going forward could no longer be about whether or not I wanted to do something. Here I was with the ability to ride across America in perfect health, with a plethora of resources and the support of my family and friends and I had the audacity to ask whether or not I wanted to do this for charity?
I realized at that moment that I not only should ride for Korah, but that I had an obligation to ride for Korah simply because I am able to. It’s not comfortable for me to write things in order for you to read, it’s not comfortable for me to speak to large audiences, and it’s certainly not comfortable for me to leave everything behind and live off a bike for three months, but uncomfortable does not equal unable. I have the ability to make these choices and in making these choices I can to do my part in fulfilling someone else’s hope of a better life. I think about everything I have been resourced with. I think about everything I could do with those resources if I valued the needs of others over my own comfort. The fact that one can make these choices is a luxury in itself. I ride because I am able; because my choice to ride can change the lives of women who may not have been lucky enough to have had the same choices I was born with.