November 15, 2011

Inspiring Alyn 2011

The last time I posted was also right after the Alyn bike ride. Guess this event stirs me up. Perhaps because it’s just the most perfect way to spend a day.

Here I was riding through majestic pine forests. A soft, autumn sun dappled my arms and the sky was a magenta blue as only an Israeli sky can be. And as I ascended the hills, I urged myself on, challenging those quads, steadily, rhythmically breathing in the fresh mountain air. I entered into a silent space, a form of meditation.

And at the end of the day, as hundreds of riders entered the Alyn hospital amid cheers and drumming, flags and confetti, I cried. The sweat from my face mingled with my tears and I tasted salty crumbs, the leftovers of my uphill 1100-meter climb from Latrun to Jerusalem.

I first noticed the parents who stood lovingly stood beside children who beamed excitedly from wheelchairs. Moms smiled. Dads clapped. Young brothers and sisters danced beside siblings, some of whom could barely sit up on their own or breathe unassisted. Most of these kids would never ride a bike.

I looked at these people and admired their strength, their smiles, their positive energy and their gratitude. I too felt grateful that I could be here and that my donations would find a way to improve their lives. And I felt ever so thankful that I was able to ride my bike here; to drink a sense of liberation as the warm sun and fresh breeze tickled my face, my feet pushing pedals, sailing me up hills and across mountains.

I was also moved to see Arab families standing beside Israeli families and Orthodox Jewish families side-by-side with secular Jewish families. These families share goals for their children and this is the melting pot I dream of. I am privileged to see this and thank the Alyn Rehabilitative Hospital for making this a reality. In the future, why not have Arab riders pedaling beside Jewish riders? There is no better way to bond than by sharing in such a beautiful cause.

Yet another emotional moment was to see a former hospital patient completing the rigorous five-day ride. Itai is a young 14-year-old boy who had a brain tumour. After several difficult surgeries and years of physiotherapy, he recovered and decided to give back to the very hospital that saved him. Another young rider was gravely injured by a rocket but after years of treatment at the Alyn, he too is able to ride with the others--and to give back.

If we could all learn from these boys, the world would be a better place. We receive and we give. And when we give, more people receive.

I now have a new mantra for those challenging uphills in life.

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