Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Yorktown, VA to Charles City, VA: First Day and Understanding Kindness


Miles: 39.79
Inspiration: Metallica; Music from the Hearts of Space (NPR); This American Life (NPR)
Spirits: Excited; Relaxed
Seen on the road: Two vultures devouring a dead deer; turtle crossing the road


This morning I awoke to a sunrise like no other. I can't quite remember the last time I saw a sunrise, let alone one that tossed sparkling shades and hues over a clear, calm ocean. The things you start to notice when you don't have to make it to the office for those early morning conference calls:

After a quick shower and some improvised packing, I rolled my bike downstairs to check out of the hotel. That's where I met up with Catherine Sayle, a regular reader who graciously kept me company as I pushed my rig across the sand and dipped my tires onto the surf.

Catherine and I chatted for a bit, said our goodbyes and suddenly it was just me and the road.

Now, as someone who has never toured before I can honestly say that today was a total breeze. The weather turned hot pretty quickly, but I had done most of my riding by the time it got uncomfortable. It also helped that somewhere north of Jamestown, I met up with Sean, another bike tourist with his eye on St. Louis:

We chatted most of the rest of the way to Charles City where we parted ways. I'm hopeful I can meet up with him somewhere ahead.

The biggest realization so far on this trip is how much I have to learn about human kindness. Seriously. This is the kind of trip where a person is forced to rely on the kindness of strangers, where my safety and very survival is tied to how the “Other” perceives you as a person.

Case in point, yesterday afternoon I started to feel pretty uncomfortable because I just didn't know where I was going to be staying in Charles City. Desperate, I did a quick google map of the city and found a couple of churches in the area. Out of the blue, I called a Baptist church on Route 5 and explained that I was going to be coming in on a bike and that it would be fantastic if they could allow me to pitch a tent on their grounds. Without missing a beat, they said I could absolutely stay. And when I got to Charles City I entered a Citgo convenience store and mentioned that I was hoping to camp in the area. The owner immediately offered me the grass in the back of the store and a restroom in the back. This is precisely where I am currently writing this blog entry:

Now, I know that for some of you the fact that people have the grace and decency to be kind to a complete stranger is not a revelation. But as a recovering law firm lawyer with a history of being a materialistic, consumerist, elitist asshole, this was nothing short of that: a revelation. Getting off the phone with that Baptist pastor yesterday I got a bit choked up. I won't deny it. There was something so essential, so beautiful, so perfectly HUMAN, about a person doing something nice for someone else...it made me want to capture that moment, bottle it up and spread it every which way. Maybe that's what I will end up doing with the rest of my life in one way or another.

29 comments:

Anita said...

Hi Jack,

I have to agree with you on the kindness shown by complete strangers and how it always catches me by surprise. I spent a year in India and often needed help, whether it was furnishing my apartment or navigating the trains, railway stations and different languages. There were so many times when complete strangers helped me and I felt such gratitude. I feel like in our day to day life (particularly in the corporate world), there is no such thing as a random act of kindness, whereas when I came across it in my travels, it seemed like the natural thing to do. It's amazing that outside of our day to day existence, a whole other world seemingly exists!

Jerry Critter said...

WOW!

That's it.

WOW!

Jolyn said...

I have a feeling you are just getting started on your journey. And I'm not talking about the bike ride.

dtb said...

Yes! Yesyesyesyesyes!

Isn't it amazing when humans actually realize their potential for goodness?

That goes for you, too.

Linda said...

There truly is beauty in human kindness! (And sunsets like the one above)

Happy to hear that your journey is going fine.

Take care!

Jonna (aka mom) said...

A "revelation"? Seriously? Wow. Keep pedaling, Jack, you're in for one heck of a ride. Wishing a thousand ordinary nice people your way!

Jack said...

@Anita,

And isn't there something wrong with a profession that breeds a culture that eschews/discourages that connection between people?

@Jerry,

Absoltutely.

@Jolyn,

I have a feeling you are right.

Jack said...

@dtb,

It is amazing. I just wish there were more people in on it where I come from. And I'm not just referring to geography here.

@Linda,

How true.

@Jonna,

Thanks

Anonymous said...

The CAGE FREE FAMILY needs help.

bill h said...

Jack, every now and then atty's get the chance to do something like this:
http://wildernessinthecity.blogspot.com/2009/04/good-day-at-teh-courthouse.html

I'm very happy for you and this new found freedom. I just think it's important to remember that there's lots of lawyers out there fighting the good fight.

I'm excited about this whole enterprise for you!

bill

moralia said...

I just found your blog today but will definitely be following you along your journey... You have me hooked!! I can't wait to read more about your ride across the U.S!! :) Enjoy those sunsets!

Elizabeth said...

It looks gorgeous! Enjoy the journey.

I see kindness and goodness everywhere I look. I'm glad you're seeing it now. :)

microwave said...

You're one of the good ones, you know. :)

Money Funk said...

And here I am afraid to endure in REAL human contact... perhaps because of my ungracious past. And here, you have proved that there are really kind people out in the world. Its really fantastic to see the changes and experiences you are enduring. Its fantastic that you took the step to search your life for its true meaning. Best wishes. I will continue to follow...

Family on Bikes said...

Welcome to my world!! The kindness of people is precisely the reason I'm out touring the world! It is more humbling than anything else, and never ceases to inspire a sense of awe within me.

I know there is nothing I can say to encourage you to relax about finding a place to camp - but relax anyway. At the beginning of our last trip I used to get really nervous if nght was approaching and we didn't know where we would sleep. But night after night after night we found a place - someplace, anyplace. After a while I found myself joking - "OK God, you can do your thing now. We need a place to sleep." And the funniest part was that I KNEW HE would do exactly that.

Give yourself some time - you'll come to that realization too.

Nancy
www.familyonbikes.org

Mandira said...

I hope your journey brings you across thousands of people who are happy to just do something simply because its the nice thing to do. I have a sneaky feeling you're like that too...just have to get far away from the madness that it lawyer hell!

Safe travels!
M

timary said...

Good for you! and thanks for sharing. :)

Heather's Moving Castle said...

If you pulled up to my house, I'd send you away. I am just that mean. LOL. Just kidding. I am so glad you are on your way again. Every time I do something kind and people are surprised, I just say I am paying it FW. I love that concept. So glad there are lots of others out there paying it FW.

Kudos!!! Safe travels too.

Krista said...

I am happy for you that you've seen such kindness in the beginning of a new adventure! Thats definately a positive start that can make you look forward to what else is in store. You can meet such horrid people sometimes but its so inspirational when you come across all the good people out there.

In a few years my husband and I will begin touring Europe by bike. I hope we have as much luck!

Jack said...

@Anonymous,

What do you mean? Is something going on?

@Bill H,

Thanks for the comment. Good to hear from you. Absolutely. To be clear, I don't want to give the impression that being a lawyer prevents a person from doing good. I need to get in on this myself.

@Moralia,

Thanks.

Jack said...

@Elizabeth,

Thanks for the comment. Any chance I will see you soon?

@microwave,

Thanks. Refrigerator!

@Money Funk,

It's just a matter of looking for it and being open in your heart.

Jack said...

@Nancy,

Thanks for the comment. BTW, that realization about being able to just find a place to crash and not worrying about it always got to me. I think you included that in an email once. Have had that philosophy ever since, but it's intimidating the first time around.

@Mandira,

Will do my best. How are things with you?

@Timary,

Thanks

Jill M. said...

How touching!

Elizabeth said...

if you're going to be in Oregon soon, for sure! I figured you weren't going to be there 'til summer. :)

re. Cage Free .. read their blog. I checked it when I read that comment to see if I could help.

Lance Huffman said...

Hi!

I am leaving a message here because I know you have met up with an connected with the "Cage Free Family". I've seen you on their blog before. Given their latest post, I am quite worried about them. I made a small donation, but I want to know if you know anything about how they are doing?

By the way, love what YOU are doing as well.

Take care,
Lance

Christie said...

I've been reading here for a while, and am really excited to follow this trip!

And I am so thrilled that you are discovering the nature of humanity...and how, once you take away all the pretentious facades, we're really all in this together. It's a beautiful thing.

Enjoy the ride.

Jack said...

@Heather's,

That's precisely the phrase. It definitely speaks to how I was feeling when I wrote this post.

@Krista,

Sounds like a plan. Where are you guys starting from?

@Jill M,

It definitely was touching for me. It's been a week and it still surprises me how people will give you the shirts off their backs for a traveler.

Jack said...

@Elizabeth,

Yeah, I finally read it a couple of days ago. I called Jeff and left a message. Haven't heard back. Will have to email now.

Heres to seeing you BOTH in oregon!

@Lance,

Thanks for your message. I haven't heard from them in a while (see above). I'll see if I can email them and reconnect. I gave them a small donation myself about a month or two ago and probably won't be able to do it again for awhile.

@Christie,

I LOVE the way you put that. It's very much how it feels. Don't be a stranger.

donna said...

beautiful post Jack, you've lifted my spirits, good luck with your journey