I’ve been doing a lot of mountain biking lately. Usually, I find myself on beautiful, desolate trails and ride up into the hills as the sun sets. (Yes, it does get dark and that can lead to problems, but that’s for another post.)
Yesterday morning, for some reason unknown to me at the time, I grabbed one of my old Alyn Jerseys and threw it in my bag.
The Alyn Hospital is a children’s rehabilitation hospital. They provide all different types of treatment for kids who have survived terrible car accidents, terror attacks, and other traumatic events, as well as kids born with severe challenges. (They actually do a whole lot more, so click on the link above.)
They do amazing work with these kids. But that costs a lot of money. So every year, people come from around the world to participate in their 5 day bike ride to raise money to help these kids. Good people get to go on a great ride and kids can get the treatment they need. It’s a win-win.
Before Stella got sick, I went on the ride 5 years in a row. I loved every minute and saw more of this country than most Israelis. We road up hills, through valleys, in the rain and the sun, and I got to know a great bunch of riders.
I also collected a lot of yellow Alyn jerseys, most of which sit in my closet. But yesterday, without thinking, I took one with me. After work, I was eager to get right on the bike. So even though I noticed the back tyre (that’s an Australian spelling BTW) was a little low, I decided just to ignore it. Yeah, I know. Like riding after the sun goes down with sunglasses. (Again — that’s another post.)
Twelve kilometers from your car is not where you want to have any problems that make your bike unrideable. Of course, that’s where I decided to put some more air in the tire (I can’t help it, back to American spelling. I am a patriot) using an old pump that had not been used in years. BTW — the purpose of a bicycle pump is to add air into a tire.
My pump worked on a completely different principle. That pump actually took all the air out of the tire. Maybe that would have come in handy if I had found my tires had a bit too much air in them and wanted to take some out.
But that was not the case. So after using this wonderful pump, I found that I no longer had a bike that was hard to ride. I now had a bike that was impossible to ride. (And a pump that was not going to make the situation any better.)
But I tried anyway and was not making much progress when I turned the corner and to my surprise, I met up with about a dozen folks wearing the Alyn yellow jerseys. (Remember those?) A few of them were old friends I hadn’t seen since I “retired” from riding. In no time at all, we had pumped up my tire, and I joined them for a fun ride.
Even more amazing, this was a group that was made up of local riders and young people who had been treated at Alyn. One young woman I rode with had been hit by a car four years ago. She had a traumatic brain injury and needed extensive therapy. At the time, the idea of her riding a mountain bike was simply not realistic. But she, and the rest of the riders did just great.
I know what it’s like to have to dig really really deep to find strength. I have been there — in the middle of the night when your hope is sapped and you feel the darkness closing in. I know what it’s like to want to quit — more than anything else. I have been on ultra marathons when my legs felt like giving out. And I have had to face the prospect of raising my children without their mother.
You know, I really feel sorry for people who have never been placed (or placed themselves) in situations where the only thing they can rely on is that buried reserve of strength that we all have deep down.
When Max completed his three day try-out for an elite Army unit, I was very proud not just that he had accomplished the ordeal, but that he now had an experience he can fall back on whenever life seems to get hard — or even impossible.
But when someone suffers serious injuries that prevent them from walking, talking, eating, etc — that ordeal is every day — every single day. You don’t get to cross the finish line and relax when every day life gives you more fences to climb, more kilometers to pass.
So for me to see a group of people who should not have even been walking — riding mountain bikes in the Judean Hills — it was truly remarkable.
Yes, Alyn riders helped me out with a little thing like a flat tire. But what Alyn riders really do is help kids with really big problems get the care that they need.
And I would take my hat off to them, except my hat is a helmet and it’s a really bad idea to take your helmet off while mountain biking.
(I started working at ALYN in 2016. I’m still there as of 2022!)