Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day 26; Day of Rest- Comments on Social Justice

I have spent many days and weeks now on a bicycle riding on all kinds of terrain, through all sorts of weather and a variety of traffic and road conditions. I have had plenty of "alone" time on the road to think about my connection to the people of Honduras, why I am doing this ride and what "social justice" means to me. I have met the elderly, mothers, young men, children and the sick in both the U.S. and Honduras. Everyone has their story. And, these stories must be heard.

This bicycle journey has raised a few issues for me and while I am keenly aware that we are on a mission for AJS and ASJ, I think that discussing the ride today with Kiley Seligman, a staff writer for Iowa Information in Sheldon, Iowa, helped me to better process and hopefully articulate these thoughts.

One thing is certain, my sensitivity to social injustice has clearly risen. Here are just a few examples of social justice concerns I have come across:

Day 18: On our bike ride from Gillette, WY to Newcastle, WY we stopped at Polly’s Pub & Grub in Upton, Wyoming. We made a big fuss here back in 2007 when I was on my bicycle ride from Seattle to Washington, D.C. and my wife Pollie and I took photos out front and we got to meet the owner, Polly, who gave my Pollie a bright pink Polly’s Pub & Grub baseball cap, a bunch of bumper stickers and posed with us for pictures.

This morning though, Mom and Dad had been waiting for Pete and I for quite awhile and were a little worried about our late arrival until we explained our dawdling at the West Texas Trail Museum and how the weather had beaten us up a bit. Spaghetti and meat sauce, extra slices of garlic bread and some corn and we were fully loaded and ready to hit the road again. On the way out though, I had a conversation with Polly about the “for sale” sign I saw posted in her window. Having worked in restaurants much of my adult life I know how hard the work can be so I naively suggested that to Polly as the likely reason for her selling the business.

“Oh no. That’s not it,” she said. “I had a brain tumor that the doctors found a while back and they said that it was benign and treated it with some injections. Apparently, the tumor is back and I’m going to have to have some surgery to take care of it. But I have to sell the business first.”

In my feeble way, of encouragement I mentioned to her that I am a stage IV cancer survivor and how Dad has survived cancer twice in life. And, I mentioned that I would ask all of you reading this blog to pray for Polly of Polly’s Pub & Grub in Upton, Wyoming-- for her healing-- and, the ability to keep her business rather than have to give it up in order to heal.

While I pedal on the rest of the day, I can’t help thinking of Polly and the people of Honduras who struggle against different but powerful forces every day. Where is their justice?

Day 21: Today was a blistering day in the heat: 96 degrees F. and all we could think of as we pedaled from Rapid City to Kadoka, South Dakota through the Badlands was water and sunscreen. Water, even in an insulated water bottle, quickly warms to body temperature not more than a few miles down the road from where we filled it. Yet, I think of how I have water here, even warm water, and how it is clean and how it keeps me alive. I cannot say the same for the kids at the Hogar Tierra Santa orphanage in Villa San Antonio, Honduras near Comayagua or how our friends Arturo and Jolie who have hosted us in Tegucigalpa regularly go for stints of 30 or 40 days until water is delivered to them.

What do I really know of these things? I will meet up with Mom and Dad in the RV somewhere up on the road ahead, sit in the shade and guzzle down clean, cool water; as much as I want to fill up on. I will take a hot shower later this evening and let it spill all over me for as long as my sore muscles demand. Social justice?

And, when we finally arrive in Kadoka, South Dakota, we speak with our hosts, Pastor Gary and his wife, Ruth, at the First Presbyterian Church where they have agreed to let us put up our tents, use the bathrooms and park the RV with electrical hook up. When we discuss the work of AJS and why we are doing the bike ride, Pastor Gary comments on the work his church is doing with youth going in to help in the local Indian reservations. The reservation land in this region encompasses three counties. The Lakota Sioux is the tribe he and the youth serve. The tribe has an 81% unemployment rate. And, these three counties are the poorest counties in the entire U.S.

We had visited the Battle of the Little Bighorn national park earlier in the week, the site of "Custer's Last Stand" and the notion of the Indian "way of life" was expressed in great detail in the land, the rivers, in the air and in the blood of those who fought to preserve these things. I can't get over 81% unemployment and the poorest three counties in the U.S. And, this has been considered sacred land. These statistics are how we measure wholeness or capability or success in the modern era. Certainly, by modern measure we know that justice is lacking here-- and who is fighting for social justice on the reservations today?

I think a lot of the words I have spoken and written in my journal on this trip: "Your courage, your hope, your ability to make a difference is available to you. Your opportunity to serve exists. If you choose to be courageous."

I have chosen to make a tiny dent in the battle against social injustice and I am well aware that bicycling to Grand Rapids for AJS and ASJ is just the beginning. I pray that all of you make your own special dent in the charge against oppression, corruption and the demeaning of the poor and less powerful. God bless...

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