I’m a lucky guy. The crash I recently experienced is demonstration of a great many things, like how roads don’t always offer consistent traction, and just how quickly the brain can process information. It’s also as clear a demonstration of my luck as I’ve ever received. That I didn’t break my jaw or any teeth, not to mention my nose or any cervical vertebrae is as near a miracle as I’ve experienced. I won’t lie; I’ve never hit anything so hard in my life. If I ever do it again, I’m not gonna be happy about it.
But that’s where my luck ends and other stuff takes over. The outpouring of support, whether just kind notes by email or Facebook, comments here or on Twitter, and then the more concrete support in the form of beers, more beers than I could drink in a year, maybe five, well that’s not luck. Fortune strikes me as a good word, as in I’m fortunate to enjoy so much wonderful support. Or, it is my good fortune to receive such an enthusiastic response to a real need.
The friendships that led to the beer fund, well, those are harder to characterize. Certainly, I’m fortunate to have such good friends who would step up for me. But friendships have an accidental element to them, the factors that brought you together. I like to say I make my own luck, that I don’t believe in fate, yet there’s no denying that my friendships with Robot and Eric wouldn’t have happened without the bike. I couldn’t have chosen to meet those guys, but I chose the bike and meet them I did.
And let’s be honest, every now and then an event transpires in a friendship that so grows and increases the depth of the relationship it’s tantamount to finding out that the one guy in the foxhole with you did the job of three.
I’ve done what I can to live by the values that my parents attempted to impart to me, but it’s been a journey. I like to kid that the RKP merchandise is all created for entirely selfish reasons. I’m not kidding. I wanted that kit, that T-shirt, that hat, but only because I wanted to add more cool stuff to my wardrobe. There’s an irony at work here, though. The biggest piece of my personal journey into adulthood has been selfishness. I was a nice enough guy when I was 25, but I was pretty focused on my education, my needs, my life. Finding a way to grow my heart to be a decent (if not excellent) husband and a reasonably devoted father has required a good deal of mental arithmetic. I’m not joking about this, either; to back up what I knew to be right, I had to work through the logic as well.
And while my journey out of acute selfishness and into occasional (and mostly more benign) selfishness is by no means complete—a plane yet to reach its airport, I’m comfortable with humility the way I am with an old pair of shoes—any hour of the day. As is true for most people, I suspect, my parents remain giant figures within my life, and I still calibrate my moral compass to theirs in many ways. Humility is something they demanded of me, and for reasons that elude me, it stuck in a way generosity didn’t. Consequently, I’ve probably not been the advocate for my own work that would have been most helpful. Oops.
These two seemingly independent values, generosity and humility, came clanging into the beer donation with such force the sound still drowns out the TV and most conversation here at home. I struggle with what has taken place for a lot of reasons, but generosity and humility are the two factors that seem to make that road most bumpy.
Robot alluded to my reluctance to accept help. I need to explain myself a bit: I see community activity along these lines as something you do for someone who is a victim. Someone who got a nasty disease, like my friend Charles, or someone who was hit by a car, someone who’s being picked on by a couple of assholes just because he’s a little guy, like Paul Kimmage.
I’m different. I knew the risks. While I don’t think I ran out of skill, I did happen to run out of luck. In my world view, the crash was just an accident and entirely my responsibility. Victim? Not me. As to my health coverage covering less than half of what’s being charged, well, that’s on me too; I need to write more for more different outlets, so I can spend more on a better plan. Like I said, on me.
That isn’t meant to argue against what all of you have done; rather, it’s a necessary effort to illustrate how your collective generosity has … hell, I’m not even sure how to describe what a monumental revelation and experience this has been for my wife and me. Remember the scene in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy opens the door and sees Oz in color? This experience has been no less revelatory. I’m not the guy people rally ’round. Except for the fact that, apparently I am.
Carl Jung wrote, “There is no birth of consciousness without pain.” I take that as the de facto koan of the cycling life. It’s a fundamental truth about what cycling has taught me, still teaches me, a lesson about lessons. The experience of having the crash and the outpouring of support in the wake of Eric and Robot’s efforts are yet another confirmation of Jung’s statement, but in a way I could have never guessed.
I think it’s fairly human to wonder just how many people will show up to your funeral when you die. There’s a curiosity about just how you figured in someone else’s life and whether you mattered enough for them to show up to say good bye. The movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” is as fine a meditation on the role we play in the lives of others as we’re likely ever to view. There’d be a fundamental dishonesty at work, a selfishness of heart if I didn’t reveal that this has been my personal opportunity to play the part of George and see just how much people care. I’ve had a few good cries about this. It’s humbling to realize how badly you’ve miscalculated your place in the world.
There’s also a broader urge fueling everyone’s generosity, something bigger than me or the regard RKP readers have for my work. Sometimes the community just rallies. My role was simply to be the focal point for Robot and Eric’s efforts. I was the barn that needed raising. Some of you expressed some disappointment that you didn’t get a chance to contribute; here I need to reiterate that we didn’t (I don’t) feel right taking more than I need. For those of you who still have some good will that needs a home, maybe I can serve not as a focal point but a lens, one to point your attention to the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA). I think they are doing more to grow cycling in the United States than any other organization. They’ll influence a whole new generation of cyclists, hopefully many generations to come, keeping them in the sport when they would be likely to transition to Xbox or football or cars or getting stoned. They could use your good will. You all have already done more than enough for me. I say send NICA a beer or two in the name of Philip Brady.
There’s a karma at work here. Maybe it began when I brought Robot on as a contributor. Maybe I spun that wheel up a bit when I reached out to Charles and gave him a home here at RKP when, really, reaching out beyond just simple friendship shouldn’t have been necessary. Who knows? What I can say for sure is this: I’m grateful to every one of you who stepped up. Whether you just sent a note, made a comment or bought a beer, thank you. But that’s not enough. I’ll be paying this forward. I’m not sure how, but at least I can say when, which is at every possible turn.
Once again, thank you.