In the course of our bicycle journey across America it was inevitable that we would encounter others who knowingly or unknowingly were traveling their own life pilgrimage. It was our mission to bring awareness to others of the problem of poverty in America. Yet one does not learn by speaking. It is in listening that we find enlightenment. It is in being connected to the moment that we are opened to appreciate what that moment had to offer.

Sometimes a “message” hangs in the air waiting to be heard… just as every miracle has two parts; that it occurred and that it was noticed. A lesson unheard, a miracle unnoticed, are each in their own way a little tragedy.

It is with this in mind that I pause to share two encounters. I recall them today as if they were yesterday and I believe that each of them nudged the course of my life in a small but meaningful way. This post is the reflection of my meeting with “Steve”. My next post will be of my meeting with John Bodie.

July 31, 2010

On the night of July 30th, in Dyersburg, Tennessee, I walked past one of our two support vans. These vans prominently display our “Cycling for Change” logo, and sponsorship by Catholic Charities. Next to the van was a man who sat astride a tired looking adult tricycle. His baskets held an assortment of “odds and ends” which appeared to be a mixture of personal items, random finds from a tour of roadside parks, and maybe almost every possession that he could lay claim to. The man, perhaps 40 years old and of African-American descent, wore a turban-like head covering and robes made from rough-spun cotton or burlap. Our eyes met, and without hesitation “Steve” (his real name is unknown to me) asked me if I knew who owned the van. I acknowledged my connection and we spoke briefly of the mission of Cycling for Change. As I left, he asked if he could leave some information on the windshield. I saw no harm and told him that it would be “ok”. I thought nothing more of the encounter that night.

The next morning as Christine was unlocking the van she called my attention to a sheave of folded papers under the windshield wiper. I then remarked that it must be from the man that I came upon the prior evening. Together we leafed through the papers… “Steve” had left us a tract on poverty in America, a handwritten note, and two dollars. He thanked us for our work, and for caring. Steve asked for nothing from us.

At breakfast I shared my encounter with “Steve” to our group. One of the riders remarked in humor that maybe he was a “guardian angel”. Throughout the ride that day the irony of “Steve’s” kind wishes and his donation occupied my thoughts. He lifted my spirits and the spirits of our group. He gave us perspective for the day and a greater sense of the meaning of our mission. In this way he truly was a “guardian angel”. The impact that he had on us was disproportionate to his humble contribution. A $10,000.00 donation from a wealthy benefactor would not have eclipsed the value of “Steve’s” gift.

My brief encounter with “Steve” has also given me pause to consider the other “Guardian Angels” who have eased our burden with kind words, encouragement, prayers… my Mother, my children, my grandchildren, my friends, our segment riders. You keep an eye on us and you care. I would list your names, but the peril of an innocent omission is too great. I trust that you know who you are and that I am thankful to you from the bottom of my heart.

Peter Schloss

Next: John Bodie, A Painful Reminder.
Peace Everyone. Pete

5 thoughts on “Across America by Bicycle, Part 20: Encounters.

    • Your encounter with this “guardian angel” is wonderful. I too believe they exist and happen when we least expect it. He seemed to be a truly kind soul sharing what little he evidently had with your cause. This story is encouraging in our difficult times of the pandemic. My hope is that he was and is repaid in many ways.

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