It was the morning of July 24th, four days before my fifty-fifth birthday. I had meticulously planned out a bicycle trip from Midlothian to Kansas that would cover five days and over five hundred miles on my Trek Domane steed. The trip would culminate with my family joining me in Kansas by car for a birthday celebration.
I looked forward to this trip for months. The bike was tuned and ready. I had one small bag lightly packed with clothes and repair equipment. My intention was to get up far before daybreak each morning and be well into my ride as the sun came up on my right and the smells of the country rose with the morning warmth.
On day one, I woke up earlier than planned due to pure adrenaline and moved swiftly through my carbohydrate dominated breakfast. I stopped at a convenience store, rolling my expensive bike with me. I bought some Gatorade, filled my bottles and rode off. One mile or so down the road, something just didn’t feel right. I felt in my frame bag and my wallet wasn’t there! I raced back to the pharmacy and ran in the store and the checker asked if I lost my wallet. He said someone picked it up and left it on a post outside and he brought it in. Upon inspection, my credit and debit cards were there, but my $500 for the trip was gone. I was incensed. Fuming and maybe cursing a bit, I rode away feeling violated. I could not believe it, not even an hour into my trip and disaster had struck. I rode for at least an hour feeling sorry for myself. Then, as the sun arose, I remembered the old Beatles song, “Here Comes the Sun,” and it dawned on me. I still had my wallet, my drivers license, my cards and I was okay. I could stop at the next ATM and get some more money. I was still on the bike, riding through glorious country painted by God, and had hours upon hours to spin pedals and reflect on fifty-five years of living. I knew this trip was intended to reteach me gratitude and I would spend every day being thankful for each moment and person.
Each day I celebrated the rising sun as I said, “Hello” to God and congratulated him on His newest canvas. Approaching Stillwater, Oklahoma, I had a flat and stopped to repair it. There in front of me was a TREK bicycle store. I rolled in and met the young owner and his wife and they were quickly fascinated with my story. They were Christians and we shared some background and he sent me down the road to a local diner to eat, rest, and wait for them to take a look at the bike. When I returned, I waited about an hour and they brought out the Domane. They had completely overhauled the bike and even done some upgrades at their own expense! They just wanted to be part of the trip. God is good. I could go on and on about all the gifts that came my way when I started to anticipate the light rather than swim in the darkness but something else happened that I want you to know.
As I pedaled through the miles, being grateful for each moment and each event, a peace settled over me that resulted in a new viewpoint for others. I started to be more patient and tolerant of those who entered my arena. There was an old man at a gas station and store that was tough and full of vinegar. He just couldn’t figure out why anybody would ride a bike like I was and why anyone would wear such goofy clothing (that’s the cleaned-up version). But he kept engaging and I knew there was more to him. As we bantered back and forth and I laughed at his barbs, he finally lightened up. He was an old veteran who had made a lot of mistakes in life and recently lost his wife to cancer. We ended up eating lunch together and having a great time. I would have likely missed him or ignored him in the past, but out of gratitude, I found grace for his abrasiveness and found a friend.
On the longest day of the trip, I left really early to avoid afternoon heat. The sun rose, I had my hello moment with God, and I was gushing with gratefulness for a nice wind at my back and a shoulder on the road that was as smooth as glass allowing me to click off the miles rapidly. In the midst of my fast track path, I saw a car up ahead with the trunk open and a little bitty lady standing by the rear bumper. Normally, I might have pedaled on, but on this trip, I stopped without thinking. I offered to change her tire. She spoke broken English but managed to say, “You help me?” I assured her I would get the tire changed. Twenty minutes later, the tire was changed and she gave me a traditional oriental bow at the waist.
Thanking God continually for all I was experiencing, I was privileged to buy meals for elderly people, veterans, young couples and lots of candy bars for kids. I didn’t worry about rude drivers, nor did I worry about teenagers in oversized diesels. I reflected on how grateful I am for my wife and kids and how I no longer wanted to stress about meaningless things. When my family joined me in Kansas, they received a man who had been greatly impacted by gratitude.
This holiday season I encourage you to practice gratitude. Be thankful for each moment, each event and each person. Love people for who they are rather than having disdain for them for what they are not. If you will practice gratitude, you won’t have to worry about practicing grace – it will naturally flow from you.