Yesterday’s 65.8 mile journey from St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Beaver Dam to Trinity Episcopal Church in Baraboo took us through beautiful vistas of rolling farmland. The smell of freshly cut hay, the sound of cattle, and the sights of farmers at work were abundant. Also abundant were long stretches of road where the only sounds I could hear were wind, birds, frogs and insects — a symphony of sounds often drowned in the 24/7 noise so much a part of my life as a city dweller. We crossed the Wisconsin River by ferry and then took on the steepest (and longest!) hill so far in the Tour as we pedaled past Devil’s Lake State Park. The trip took seven hours (which included time for brief respites off the saddle, snacks and conversation).
Two of us pedaled the route. But we were not alone. We had three “support” people — the two person team in the “Supply and Gear” (“SAG”) vehicle and a third person in a second vehicle, which we have dubbed “the chase car” (if one considers an average speed of 12-13 mph worthy of a chase!). These three people spent the entire day, scouting the route ahead, checking and double checking the map and marking the way for us so we didn’t lose time doing those things for ourselves. And occasionally, when we topped a particularly challenging hill, we had a cheering section! For much of the day, though, these folks were simply sitting somewhere waiting for us to pass them so they could tavel to the next spot a mile or two down the road and wait some more. For good portions of the day, I couldn’t see them, but knowing they were nearby was reassuring in a way I can’t quite explain. I suspect this feeling will continue to be present for me as the Tour cranks out each mile over the remaining nine days.
For this pedaling pilgrimage, our support personnel are the “outward and visible sign” that none of us gets through this life alone. We are dependent upon others. Family, friends, our faith community, our neighbors and our fellow workers are obviously part of our support system. But what about the vast number of people whose efforts and labors are unseen and unknown to us? The people who clean hospital floors in the middle of the night. The migrant worker sweating in the fields during harvest time. The truckers who haul products from one part of this country to another so we can pluck them off the shelves at our local box store.
At the risk of sounding preachy (occupational hazard!), how often do we forget we are ever surrounded and supported through this life by the One in whom we “live and move and have our being”? We may not see the Holy One. We may not hear the whispers of the Spirit. We may not feel particularly close to God’s Presence. Yet our faith maintains we are never alone — even in times of profound loneliness. The Holy Community we Christians call “the Trinity” is (to borrow from an ancient hymn), “behind us, before us, beneath us, above us and within us”. And for this assurance, I offer a hearty (and humble), “Thanks be to God!”