Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wheels for Wheels--Day 1

Florida City, FL

A good ride today--65 miles!  Started out in Hallandale, south of Fort Lauderdale, and made my way through Miami Beach, Miami, Coral Gables, Coconut Grove, Cutler Ridge, Homestead and Florida City.  Some of the route was very urban (including downtown Miami!), some was suburban, including a lovely stretch called Pine Tree Drive in Miami Beach, lined with Australian pines, and a fair amount of rural territory  passed through tree farms (mostly palms of all varieties) and along drainage canals.

Linda and Zak headed off to the Miami Zoo for the day, never more than a cell phone call away should I need them.  Linda's a fan of elephants and giraffes--and Zak loved the faces the alpacas make.  We reconnected at the hotel late in the afternoon, and as I write they are playing a hot game  of cards!

I was delighted with all the landmarks I passed.  The Opera House in Miami.  The Fillmore Jackie Gleason Theater (ah, the Honeymooners, they still resonate!).  The NASCAR track in Homestead. The Air Force Base. I sometimes forget Miami is a real city--not just a winter getaway!

One of the things I took note of along the way were the various religious institutions.  I passed Temple Menorah, whose backyard was filled with laughing children, no doubt a preschool.  My daughter Liz went to a Jewish Preschool.  Around Hanukkah one year she informed me she wanted to be Jewish!  In Miami I passed a Christian Science Church with a sign out front announcing that there was simultaneous Spanish translation at their service.  I saw a Kingdom Hall (Jehovah's Witnesses) and a Lutheran Church, an Episcopalian Church that invited folks inside where it was "prayer conditioned," and even one of our own, Plymouth Congregational Church.  My favorite though was a United Methodist Church that was advertising it's current sermon series:  "Games People Play."  This week's game?  "Sorry!"  That could cover a multitude of sins!

Speaking of apologies, near the end of the ride I realized I hadn't prayed.  I rather sheepishly confessed the same to God, and offered up my excuses.  The urban part of the trip had required all my attention, later when the ride was simpler in the rural areas, I was tired . . . We really can turn anything into an excuse when it comes to prayer, can't we?  Whatever, my prayers tonight include prayers of thanksgiving for a safe ride today.  And despite a few achy parts, my sixty year old body seems to be holding up.

Your interest and support is much appreciated.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Wheels for Wheels/60 for 60, Part II

This is it--the week for Wheels for Wheels!  Starting Wednesday , July 31, I'll be making my three day, 180 mile trip from just south of Fort Lauderdale to Key West.  I'm excited, I'm nervous, I'm almost ready to roll!  I need to make my way to my local bike shop to pick up a spare tube or two.  I need to buy some Gatorade to make sure those electrolytes stay balanced.  And I need to review the maps one more time to make sure about the route.  Once I get past Miami it's pretty straightforward--US 1--the Overseas Highway--and adjacent bike paths all the way.  But things really twist and turn through Miami and its immediate environs.

So many people have helped make this trip a reality.  Not only the dozens and dozens of folks who have made donations for the Wheelchair Foundation, but others as well.  Our Office Manager here at church, Sandy Simmons, who's been keeping track of the donations.  Parishioner Dick Travas, who helped me figure out my new bike rack.  My fellow Rotarians, who have been cheering on the whole effort.  The members of our church who have not only made many contributions, but have also offered up their prayers for my safety. Rotarian John Carney, who gave me what amounts to a lifetime supply of sunscreen.  My grandson Zak, who will provide good company along the way.  And most especially, my wife Linda.  Having her as support on the route will make all the difference!

When I first conceived of this idea, I wasn't sure it would ever happen.  But it is coming to fruition!  And so a thank you in advance to all who have helped out as I've gone through the preparations.  If you check in here each of those three days in the evening, you'll find a post with some of that day's adventures!

What a great way to celebrate turning sixty!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Wheels for Wheels/60 for 60

Sixty years ago today, three weeks later than expected, my mother gave birth.  To me.  I am told I had to be induced.  Apparently I wasn't in any hurry to leave the warm comfort  . . . well, you get the point.  I was late.  And, as some who know me well will tell you, my birth set a precedent that I have followed most all of my life.  I'm often like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, rushing in at the last minute!

This year, though, knowing I would be hitting this major milestone in my life, I did a fair amount of advance planning.  I wanted to be sure that I marked the occasion in some way that would celebrate my good fortune when it comes to my health, and in a way that would be of some service to others.  So I decided to take a bike ride.  A long bike ride.  A ride that would stretch out for three days, cover 180 miles (sixty times three--very trinitarian, I suppose!) and cover some beautiful terrain.  And so next week, July 31 through August 2, I'll be riding from Fort Lauderdale here in Florida to the southernmost point in the continental United States, Key West.

Over the last six or seven weeks I have been soliciting financial pledges for the ride.  The cause I am supporting is the Wheelchair Foundation.  It is a favorite charity of my Rotary Club, and the club has put up a $3500 matching grant.  The Foundation purchases wheelchairs for those who have none.  They work domestically and around the world.  The recipients have often spent their whole lives being carried by others, or dragging their bodies across the ground.  The gift of wheelchair literally lifts them up from the ground.

Over twenty years ago my Dad was struck by a hit and run driver.  As a result he spent the last seventeen years of his life paralyzed from the waist down.  He had a wheelchair.  It allowed him to be moved around the house, so he wasn't confined to bed.  He could be wheeled to concerts and plays at the college where he had taught before the accident.  And perhaps most importantly, he could go to church on Sunday mornings.  A dear and faithful friend would come to the house and literally wheel him down the street  five or six blocks to get him there in time to sing hymns (despite brain damage from the accident, he could still sing!) and be present with his fellow parishioners.  It is because of Dad that I chose the Wheelchair Foundation.  I can't imagine how much poorer his life would have been had he not had his own personal chariot!

So Wheels for Wheels.  I had hoped to raise enough to buy sixty wheelchairs (hence, sixty for sixty)--but the generosity of my congregation, my fellow Rotarians and my family and friends, means that we should be able to purchase and distribute at least twice that number!  All I can say, is thank you!  What a nifty way to celebrate a birthday!

I got a call from the bike shop just a few minutes ago--I had to leave my bike with them so that they could look it over and make sure it is ready to go.  They found I had broken two spokes on my Saturday ride to San Carlos Boulevard.  But they'll get it up and running today, and I'll have another training ride tonight.  Maybe I'll hum "Happy Birthday" as I ride along the bike paths here on Sanibel.  Or maybe I'll sing a few lines from Dad's favorite hymn, "A Mighty Fortress"--or maybe I'll just keep still, and be grateful for the first sixty years of what has been an amazing ride!

Thanks Dad!  Thanks Mom!  I may have been late, but it doesn't mean I didn't want to come to the party!

PS:  If you are one of the few people I haven't hit up for a donation yet, your support would be welcome.  Checks should be made payable to Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ and marked "Wheels".
The church address is 2050 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, FL 33957.

(Photo:  Howard Danner (my late father) in his wheelchair enjoying the morning sun nin front of his home.)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Living in Florida--July 2013

"A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a focible felony."

Stand your ground.  That's the law in Florida.  You have the right to stand your ground, to protect yourself or others or to prevent a felony.  You have no duty to retreat.  Florida is not the only state in the Union with such a law--but it is where I live, so it's the version of the law that most concerns me.

You can also carry a concealed weapon in Florida.  Again, we're not the only place where that is legal--but I don't spend much time on the streets of Cheyenne or Dallas. 

There are many issues raised by the Trayvon Martin case.  Many fears brought to the surface.  There are worries about racial profiling and gun violence and xenophobia and the citizen's role in neighborhood security.  But for me the biggest issue is civility.  I know, that sounds trite.  But at root, each of these issues reflects our lack of civility.  Our lack of trust in each other.  Our lack of love for our neighbors.

I don't know about you, but I have no interest in living in the wild, wild west.  I want to live in a society where all are welcome.  Right here.  In Florida.  A society where men and women seek to understand one another.  A society where trust and acceptance, not suspicion and fear, are the norm. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

On Turning 80.5

Just a few days ago we celebrated my mother's 801/2 birthday--or as my daughter put it, her 80.5 birthday.  Her 80th birthday was December 30th.  But we put off the big celebration so that everyone could get their without major weather concerns.  I have brothers who live in Nebraska and Michigan--places where, unlike sunny Florida, snow is a real issue!  So we converged on her home in Kentucky late in June and threw a big party for her.  There were over one hundred guests!

Mother isn't a native to Kentucky.  She moved there in the late eighties to take a teaching job at a small liberal arts college in the city of Barbourville.  Don't be misled by the word city--it's real a pretty small town, but it has a mayor and all the other requisites for a city government!  Despite being from away mother has made an impression--not just on the college, where she was a very beloved professor before her retirement several years ago, but also on the city itself.

She is very active in her church--one of the first women elders ever elected to that position by the congregation.  She serves as a regular liturgist, leads a women's Bible study and is cfhairing the Board this year.

She is a vital part of the local historical museum, serving as a proofreader for their publication, taking a weekly turn as docent, and filling the role of Secretary.

She is a member of the Tuesday Club, a traditional women's club, and hosts the meeting annually at her home.

At the age of seventy-five she thought it would be wise to take up a new pastime--she had read that the best way to stay mentally sharp was to learn something new.  So she started taking dulcimer lessons.  She is now a member of a dulcimer group (they played at her party!)--the Knox County Porch Pickers.  (I admit, I do tease her about the name!)

And she is a voracious reader--two or three hours a day she has her nose in a book.  She currently is pursuing an interest in patristics and Eastern orthodoxy, as well as reading Barbara Kingsolver's latest novel, Flight Behaviour.

Throughout my life, my mother as served as a role model.  And in her advanced years she is doing it again.  As I approach sixty this summer, I am grateful to know that eighty holds a great deal of promise as well!  Happy 80.5, Mom!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Dedicated to Liberty and Justice for All

The numbers are staggering.  In just three days time 165, 120 Americans engaged in an incredibly bloody battle at Gettysburg.  By the time the cannons were stilled and the gun smoke cleared, 7,058 of them lay dead, 33,264 were wounded, and thousands more were missing in action or captured.  It was, by most accounts, the turning point of the Civil War.  It would lead, in time to the defeat of the Confederacy and the reunification of the United States.  All this happened 150 years ago this week.

Some, though, would argue the war is still being fought.  Some would argue that the core issues--racism, states rights and others--have yet to be resolved.  Certainly, there are no shortage of symbols of the conflict still standing.  Here in Florida, for instance, at the intersection of Interstates 4 & 75, a giant Confederate flag waves atop a very tall pole, visible for a great distance by anyone in the area.
Later, after the battle was over, Abraham Lincoln offered his most enduring speech at the dedication ceremony held to mark the cemetery where many of those killed in that battle were interred.  It was a short speech.  A speech much maligned in its day by the press.  He had, after all, written it on the back of an envelope!  But it struck a chord.  And it continues to remind us of the responsibility we all share to see to it that our nation lives up to the ideal set forth in the Constitution.  For this nation, he said, was "conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men [no doubt today he would say all people] are created equal."  That is the ideal. And living up to it is still a challenge.  He called it "a great task."  And so it is. 
On this Independence Day, this Fourth of July, might we all reflect on how we are advancing the cause of freedom.  Might we all reflect on how we are promoting liberty and justice for all.  Lincoln said we should dedicate ourselves to the cause.  Might we all do so, even as we remember the dead at Gettyburg, and all those other places in times of war and times of peace, where others have given so much.