Friday, April 22, 2016

The Story

I have been very sporadic about posting this year. I'm trying to get back to my normal weekly posts, so I'll shoot for every other week for awhile, working my way back up to weekly.

What drew me to the blog tonight? Well, a story of course.

Let me start by sharing a story about my sister-in-law. Two years ago, a huge crowd of 'my people' came to Ohio to do an MS ride. One of the cool things about this ride is that they give all of the people who have MS a free bike jersey. Because of the expense of bike jerseys, I jump on the FREE in this instance. So, there were a lot of people riding with their I Ride with MS jersey during this ride, including myself. Quite honestly, I love the jersey not only because it is free, but also because of what it stands for. During the ride, it reminds riders why they are riding. It reminds riders that people who have MS want to continue to have the ability to ride long into the future. It also makes me proud to be able to say that I can still keep up with everyone else!!!

My Jersey
The thing I dislike about the jersey is the special treatment people get just because they are wearing the jersey. I'm not talking about the 'employee of the month' type special treatment, but instead the 'oh that is sad, he/she has MS' treatment. Sure, I will always take my VIP parking spot, but typically my VIP parking spot is necessity, and I'm guessing most people with MS would agree that when they finish exercising they are done for awhile and the long walk across the parking lot is daunting. I also appreciate the thumbs up, and the nice comments from people about why they ride, that is cool!!! But just because I wear the jersey doesn't give me permission to not be kind to people, or to have people hold back when I do something wrong.

So back to the ride a couple of years ago, my sister-in-law was riding up a challenging hill for Ohio standards (did I mention she is a Mountain rider, so this is baby stuff to her?), and her chain fell off her bike while shifting gears. This was nothing she had control over, at all. It could happen to anyone, however someone shouted at her to tell her she should not be riding on the left if she was slower than other folks. I am guessing my sister-in-law could have blown this person out of the water, riding up that hill, but instead she was stopped by a mechanical problem. This person was quite rude to my sister-in-law, so much so she wanted to tell the girl to chill out, BUT, when my sister-in-law looked over her shoulder, the girl was riding with an 'I Ride with MS' jersey and decided not to say anything as a result.

When she told me and my sister this story, we both agreed that she should have said something. Just because she was wearing the jersey didn't grant her permission to be rude.

I thought of this story today because while I was riding on the local trail today, I was stopped at a road crossing, and a guy came up behind me on his bicycle. This light is notoriously long so we settled in, got ourselves a drink and started chatting (yes, I will talk to random people while I'm in public). During this conversation this guy gave me a kudos for riding even though I have MS, at which point I realized I was wearing my jersey. I told him that I would likely never stop riding. When the light changed, we said a quick goodbye, and clicked in. He 'took off' while I tried straightening my foot to get it into the clip, all the while knowing for certain that I would catch up with him, and probably blow by him. My tried and true riding buddy is often baffled by my need to showboat in these circumstances, but because she wasn't there to restrain me today, I capitalized on the opportunity.

Sure enough, I was quickly riding past him, shouting 'on your left', when he said, 'Oh, it's you again.' Then he sped up to keep up for a few minutes, he told me he was impressed with my speed especially because I have MS. At this point I had a choice to either be a jerk, or respond with grace. I chose grace... I just said, thank you, explained that I've been riding awhile, and plan to do a two day 200 mile ride in September.

I tell you this story because it is important to understand that two letters do not tell a person's entire story, do not define a person. That girl should not have been nasty to my sister-in-law regardless of what jersey she was wearing, and they guy on the trail should not have made assumptions about my riding ability simply because I was wearing my MS jersey. I myself make immediate judgement based on what I see, I am human after all, but these two experiences are reminders that I need all of the information before I react.