In my last post I told you that I registered for the three-day, 180 mile, 2015 Trek Across Maine because of a girl named Megan. I promised to tell you about her in my next blog entry. Here goes.
I once had a coach tell me that there are two types of people in the world; whiners and shiners. I think there are more types than just two but I know what he was trying to say. He was telling me I had a choice of which type of person I would grow to be. I could be a whiner, always complaining about one thing or the other and bringing people down, or I could be a shiner choosing to be positive and part of the solution.
Megan is a 17 or 18 year old shiner who inspires me to be better.
The backstory is that I met this incredible, selfless, driven young woman this past Spring when I helped her host a spaghetti dinner fundraiser at our church for all her summer benefit activities. She was riding, running and swimming all summer long to raise money for a number of causes. Good stuff, right?
Truthfully, I saw it as a good chance to connect with people in the community and do something good for others. I thought it would be a good service project for the people in our church and be a lesson for us in serving others. But, Megan surprised me with her own lessons for me.
Though only a senior in high school, she impressed me. Understand that I’ve worked with a couple thousand kids over the years. I spent 25 years as a youth director for large youth groups before liver disease came on the scene.
After all that experience, there are about dozen kids who stick in my mind as truly exceptional. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked with tons of great kids over the years. I’m talking about students who just seem to radiate a certain “world-changer” attitude. I’ve been at it long enough to see them go on to some pretty amazing roles. I’m certain Megan will be on that list.
Some people just make other people better.
During the spaghetti dinner I made small talk with Megan and started to recognize her shine. I watched her interact with her family and the people there and noticed something different in her. I talked with other adults who were there helping and noticed how they talked so positively about her. Some told me how her example made them better or helped them achieve goals they never thought possible.
When I asked about her summer events, Megan told me about riding in the Trek Across Maine in honor of her uncle. I listened to her talk about how proud she was of her mom making the ride with her and heard her talk about the others that came along. I was impressed at her influence but didn’t see that it was already at work on me.
And then it came. Megan looked me directly in the eye after I told her about my own mini-achievements in cycling since my transplant and said, “come on the Trek with us!”
First, I was taken aback by her confidence. Most teenagers have difficulty looking strangers in the eye and yet here she stood, extending an invitation with a hint of challenge.
Second, because the Trek is a three-day, 180-mile ride, I laughed at her. At that point, my biggest achievement since surgery was 35 miles pedaled in one day. I reminded her of all my transplant limitations and floated a number of excuses thinking, “this kid is crazy. She has no idea what a wuss I am.”
Megan did not back down. Instead she insisted, “Come with us. You can do it.” Megan wasn’t interested in hearing about my limitations. She didn’t believe them. Her confidence made me start questioning them myself.
By the time the spaghetti dinner was finishing up, after spending the evening with her family and understanding exactly where this exceptional kid came from, I brushed her off with, “Maybe next year.” I was sure she’d move on and forget about it.
The next day, Megan started texting me. Remember, I know teenagers. Teenagers have been my life. It’s not normal to text an ugly, old, chubby, bald dude who you have just met and say, “What are you doing tomorrow? Let’s ride!” Now, looking back, I have a strong suspicion that I may have been another of Megan’s projects.
I remember agreeing to a ride thinking it would be okay if her mom, Karen, came with us. I was pretty sure Megan would be bored with my pace but I figured that if Karen came with us that I’d have a better chance at saving face. But Karen didn’t show so it was just Megan and me. We rode, talked and put in the miles. All the while she kept saying, “you’ll be fine, ride the Trek with us.” Megan patiently pedaled my pace.
“Maybe I can do it. Maybe it’s not absurd. Maybe I will do the Trek. What’s stopping me? So what, I had a liver transplant? Why should that hold me back?” I think I had a little, white angel on my right shoulder sitting on a new, carbon-fiber bike, talking into my ear.
Then, on the left shoulder, a red-caped devil sat in an overstuffed chair with a Super Supreme extra cheese pizza on his lap, saying, “What are you? A moron? You’ll be 52 years old, you’ve got the body of a pastry chef and you had the largest organ in your body yanked out for a new one. You can’t do it. Are you freaking crazy?!?”
And then one Saturday after Megan headed off to school, Karen was in the riding group that helped me accomplish my 2014 mileage goal of a 50 mile ride. Karen encouraged me up the hills, made sure I was drinking enough water, asked how I was doing and cheered me up and over several nasty hills. It’s clear that, where Megan is concerned, the apple does not fall far from the tree. I asked a lot of questions about the Trek.
I got home with 51 miles on my GPS, logged on to the website, paid my registration and hit “submit.” I was officially registered for the Trek Across Maine.Why? All because a driven, confident, shiner asked if she could hold a spaghetti dinner at our church back in April.
People like Megan make the people around them better. They help us look past our limitations to consider what might be possible if we dare try. I want to be that type of person. I want to encourage people to press on to discover their potential.
I have no idea how I’ll do or if I will complete the whole Trek but I do know that I will work hard to accomplish my new goal. I know my effort will encourage someone lying on a couch somewhere praying for their gift of life to know that there is life after transplant.
No matter what happens, finish or fail, I’m confident I will be better for trying because of all the Megans in my life who have stepped in to give me a PUSH when I needed it.
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, Says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”