We made it home today around 5:30 to fanfare and noise from family and friends, and one Chic-fil-A cow.
This was a strong group of riders this year. They did a fantastic job. We could not be more proud of them. They rode with heart. It was an honor to ride alongside them, even if my ride was a van. Every year this ride astounds me. By now, I know the guys are physically capable of riding the miles. After all, I did it last year. That suggests anyone can do it if they put their mind to it. But the fact that these guys rode 630 miles isn’t what astounds me anymore. Something about this bike ride peals away the casual familiarity that develops around them at the youth home where I see them everyday. Truthfully, I had never met a single one of them until after they became a member of our family. So I have only that context in which to see them. The bike ride changes that.
I do not mean this in the sense that I simply get to see them off-campus. I see them off-campus often enough. And it isn’t that they are off-campus for an extended length of time. I’ve seen that, too. The difference is on this ride, they physically exert themselves to the point that only the essence remains when the day is done. It is as if the heart of the young man is exposed, and that heart is strong. That essence is good. And it is beautiful to see.
All of us have a story. Each life could be written as a book. Everything we have done, both successes and failures, have brought us to where we are today and helped shape us into who we are. The same is true with these young men. Clearly they made mistakes. Otherwise they would not be in our program and participating in this ride. But I have to admit, part of me is truly thankful for those mistakes if only for the simple reason that now they have enriched my life. My hope and prayer for them is that they have learned from their mistakes and all the places they go from here on out is freely chosen, not thrust upon them as consequence. That part of their story has yet to be written.
This tiny little chapter here in the middle, the 2013 Paul Anderson Cycling Challenge, is over. It is a story told with sweat and exertion. A story written with pedal strokes. Truly, it is a story these young men have told with heart and strength.
Kent, Joseph, Nick, Sam, Charles, Willie and Logan: you did good. We are proud of you. I am proud of you. I love you. You rode strong. Now live well. You have everything you need to succeed. You have yourself.
To Jake and Cody: thank you for joining the ride again this year. As alumni, you know what it is like to be a young man at the PAYH. I respect and admire your commitment to this event. As a staff, it does my heart good to see you back. Thank you.
And to Mason, our Mascot: I’ll let you know when your dog is ready.
And to everyone: God bless. Thank you all for following us on this adventure. As of now, we have exceeded our $100,000 goal. Thank you.