After countless interviews — as both interviewer and interviewee — few questions stop me in my tracks, but one has stuck in my mind of late.
Inquiring about my ride and fundraiser for mental health, a talk show host asked: With all that’s going on in the world, do you really think what you’re doing is making a difference?
A car mechanic in Ignace put it another way: Everyone’s raising money for something these days; the rest of us are just trying to pay the bills.
I’ll be honest: it’s pretty hard to view things through rose-coloured lenses these days. In a world where violence has become all-too-common, and the lines between race, religion, class, and political affiliation seem ever-more-rigid, how does anyone maintain hope?
It can seem a Herculean task, and yet, one I know is crucial — not just for my ride, but for all of us. Hope is often confused with passivity, but it can be an incredibly powerful force — it’s what allows us to picture a better world and work towards making it a reality.
Is a bike ride going to change the world?
At most, all I can hope for is to do my small part in tipping the scales toward progress — something which, at its core, looks very much the same in the mental health field as it does for what our world needs: a deeper sense of empathy for one another.
We rise; we rise together. We fall; we help each other up.
These things may seem so rare in practice, and yet I’ve seen them time and again in my travels — people who would open their homes and hearts to strangers; others who would willingly spend hours trying to fix a bike part they’ve never fixed before.
Things aren’t pretty — that much is true. We’ve got lots of work to do. But I’m hopeful — perpetually so — that we can make things better.
After seeing humankind’s capacity for kindness, how could I not be?
A few stories/thoughts from the past while:
1. I had heard so much about the trails on La Route Verte before even starting my trip, but I’m glad to say it’s true: in the words of Seinfeld, they’re real, and they’re spectacular. After the narrow (or non-existent) shoulders and bike lanes in Manitoba and Ontario, it’s a welcome relief to have beautiful trails and plenty of space on the road in Quebec.
2. Thank you, French Immersion. (And thank you, Mom and Dad.) In the past week and a half, those twelve years of schooling have paid off immensely – even leading to two radio interviews conducted entirely in French.
I’m losing my grip on reality I’ve spent too much time on a bike: I’ve caught myself a few times looking down and to my left as I’m walking, expecting to see whatever’s behind me reflected in my bike mirror.
Things I’ve seen:
1. Inviting rivers.
Canada sure has its share of them. Of late, my cycling route has led me along the banks of two splendid rivers: the Ottawa River and the St. Lawrence River.
2. Masterful murals.
Montreal’s downtown feels like a living, breathing organism. The splashes of colour adorning so many of the city’s walls lends an element of excitement and spontaneity that is all too rare in other cities.
3. Old-world charms.
Vieux-Québec is as close as you’ll get to medieval Europe in North America. The cobblestoned streets, centuries-old buildings, and the ever-present Fleur-de-lis flags feel a world away from the rest of the country.
Distance travelled: 5,668 km
Crêpes consumed: Not nearly enough.