Met a wealthy man last night.
Last night I met a man. I'd read about him in my local newspaper and recognized him immediately. This man is perhaps the wealthiest man I've ever met -and I gave him two dollars.
His name is Larry and he has a mild cognitive disability. He has worked as a part-time janitor for 26 years. His claim to local fame is that he loves to ride his bicycle. Since 1999, this man has ridden over 57,000 miles -equivalent to two around the world trips. A local bike shop owner initially offered to award Larry a new bike for his first documented 25k. He got it and is now on his third new bike. He is NOT a hard-core cyclist and occasionally walks (!) his bike up hills. He is about the most enthusiastic cyclist I think I've ever met, however.
Yesterday after work, I was training on a hill in the city where I live. It is not huge, but at 14% grade and 120' vertical, it represents a pretty formidable surface for sprinting. Going "around the block" on Grey, Doty, Seaver and Dodge (sounds like a law firm) represents a challenge that I was ill-equipped to handle a year ago, but have now progressed to doing as lap-work. I was on my third lap when I saw Larry walking his bicycle up the Grey Street hill. On lap four I could see that he was visiting with another cyclist a the summit of Grey Street/base of Doty Street intersection. When I passed by them on lap 5, Larry said something to me that I couldn't hear and I pulled over to his side of the street to lend a better ear.
Initially he thought he'd recognized me as a neighbor, but he was mistaken. Since I was stopped, he began an awkward solicitation for donation. His charity, "Feed My People", is a food bank that helps provide meals for those who have none. All Larry asked was a 2$ donation to purchase an arm-band (similar to the Live-Strong) and help support his cause. I didn't hesitate to pull my wallet and give 2$. For this donation, I received an armband and a copy of the newspaper article in which Larry was featured after having ridden past the 50,000 mile mark. He'd written in the margins his most current mileage figures along with his longest day and total amount raised for his charity.
I was humbled and a bit ashamed. My goals for riding seem so selfish by comparison; weight loss, fitness, preparing for 'the ride'... while this man's -a man most would consider impoverished under Webster's definition- goals couldn't be more selfless. He considers himself to be for service to others. He has something he considers worth sharing, and has raised about $20k for the food bank. With wealth beyond my imagination, he truly is a rich man -and I gave him two dollars.
Now I wish it was more.
I bring this up because there have been a few politics-stinks threads and I try hard to refrain from adding to those. No one will be swayed either way. No useful debate skills are honed. No one sees much but anger.
Larry probably doesn't understand politics, yet adds more flavor to the community stew than anyone I've met. The next time I'm lamenting federal policy or wasted tax dollars and feeling ready for a verbal lash-out, I'm going to think of Larry. Because, if a cognitively disabled person can work so hard for others who "have less", then I know I can divert my efforts to better directions than blog-rage.
What flavor do you add to your local stew? As of last night, mine just became less bitter.