The metric century ride boasts one epic climb, an 800 foot beast to a beautiful hilltop vista with ocean views.
As my riding partner and I approach the base of the hill, we become excited at the prospect of a new conquest. The tree-lined switchbacks provide a cool canopy counteracting my rising sweat rate. Finding a rhythm, I ply my advantage (I’m small and light) to pass larger, heavier riders. There’s no better way to boost your ego than passing other riders.
Then, I see him. Stranded on the side of the road is a cyclist struggling into change a flat tire. There’s an unspoken rule among cyclists — when another cyclists is in trouble, you slow down (or stop) and ask if they need help. The communal nature cycling understands the difficulty of carrying everything you might need. So, we help one another.
Instinctively, I stop and offer assistance. My new friend has a broken hand pump and just needs to borrow one. But, inflating the tire with a portable hand pump is notoriously slow. My subconscious fidgeting must have broken through my cool exterior because my new friend says “go ahead and I’ll return the pump at the next rest stop.” Without thinking, I agree and hop on my bike — the mountain is waiting.
Within minutes, my riding partner drifts up beside me and says, “do you think you’ll see your pump again?” In my desire to climb, I hadn’t considered this question let alone ask for a name or phone number. For the next hour, my troubled mind waged a war between my feelings of stupidity and trust in humanity.
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you…” (Mt 7:12)
My faith tells me to trust my new nameless friend (without a phone number) and the unspoken bond of spandex wearing men. My real world experience tells me that people are selfish and, at best, forgetful.
For the next hour, I mediate on the “golden rule”. It feels like karma or the law of reciprocity. After all, I would want the same thing if I had a flat tire without a pump. I assume the rule is about a pump for a pump — a physical act of charity. But that’s not what Jesus says. Jesus doesn’t promise that others will return the favor. He only asks that you give it. And Jesus is not only asking me to give up a $25 pump, but something more valuable — trust.
Jesus is asking me to extend trust without expectation for return because that I was I really want from people. I want people to look at me (and my actions) and assume the best intentions, not the worst.
I still want my pump back. But more so, I want my faith in humanity back.
Rolling into the rest stop, I scan the area for my new friend. When I don’t see him , I feel disappointment, but take care of my usual business – refill water bottles, eat snacks, and visit the portable blue box. Then, I feel the tap on my right shoulder. It’s my new friend and my pump. His smile is better than the hilltop vista.