We have a little more than 24 hours to go before the Coast of Hope bike ride this weekend. Then we set a flock of paper cranes in motion.
You know, we drop thousand of birds to launch the 100km/62mi Coast of Hope ride (and metric half and family rides). It’s an event that we organize once a year to help fund programs at Childrens Hospital Boston or to assist North Shore children and families living with cancer or other catastrophic challenges. (Most anyone who is reading this journal knows something about our family’s small non-profit foundation Bright Happy Power. The ride and the foundation were inspired by our personal journey through childhood cancer.)
Cyclists ride for lots of reasons. Because of the stunning North Shore scenery. Because it’s great cycling weather with quiet open roads. To be with friends. To exercise.
Or for a cause. During the Coast of Hope, parents, children, spouses, siblings and other friends and loved ones of cancer patients ride. Survivors themselves ride. Sometimes people on active treatment also join us.
Life doesn’t stop because of a cancer diagnosis. Or any sort of challenge. It might slow down. Take detours. Take us places we didn’t expect. But it doesn’t really stop.
And many of our riders choose their routes, and come out to ride or to volunteer, because they want the hours they spend this Saturday to make a difference.
If life stopped because we were scared or in pain, or too dreamy and totally sated, or because we’d heard words we never expected to hear or felt emotions we never imagined experiencing, we’d never do anything. Instead we – we as human beings — continue.
Yes, we might be transformed. Sometimes looking at the world from a new perspective. Moving in a different direction, at a changed pace, with altered values or capabilities or relationships. Yet we are always moving and interacting, affecting the fates of others at the same time we are shaped by those whose paths intersect with ours.
After all, life is what we experience as we go along. It’s an accumulation of daily moments between peaks and valleys, as well as our highs and lows.
If we only counted big moments – good or bad – ours would be a brief span of time.
Our lives add up to so much more. Every day, all the time, with whatever seconds and minutes and hours we’re given.
Measuring time is one sort of standard by which to quantify life. Me? I have witnessed that quality matters just as much. You can do a lot in a little time.
Meanwhile, my mind is filled with numbers. Although math isn’t my favorite thing, I’m counting everything right now.
I’m surrounded by minutia. I’m adding up miles. Ounces of Gatorade. Sizes of t-shirts. Gallons of water. Quantities of signs. Stacks of forms and maps. Ranges of bib numbers and the birthdays of riders. Total volunteers at every stop.
It’s easy to get lost in the equations. The volumes. To forget why we’re riding and what’s important about these Coast of Hope numbers. What makes it all meaningful?
Well, right now the youngest registered rider is 13. Our oldest riders are 68.
And today, 1500 origami cranes arrived in a package through the mail, all folded by a fourth grade classroom in Pennsylvania. Plus we’re receiving hundreds more folded by high school students and a Brownie troop. We’ll drop about 3,000-4,000 cranes on Saturday (I haven’t counted all of them in a while, but there are lots).
You know, the paper crane could be just a square piece of paper. Or a lesson in transformation and empowerment.
Guess what’s most magical about a paper crane? After all, it’s just a sheet folded in 12 steps (depending on whose instructions you use) to become a bird.
But how does it come to life? You breathe into it and inflate it.
Until then, it’s flat. One-dimensional. The air you exhale – that intangible element of life – fills the belly of the crane and causes its wings to open, its head to rise and its body to expand and tip in anticipation of flight.
And once you know how to make one, it’s a skill like reading, that you can pass on to others. Share.It’s easy to make one crane. But to fold a thousand? It’s more fun to do that as a community.
Aren’t our lives much like the form of a paper crane?
We could just count up the number of folds we make. Tight creases. Sharp points. Those might be the highs and lows. We could stop after just one bird.
But to emerge as a graceful shape, to be inflated with the possibility of taking wing? We need all the moments between every fold, the time it takes to read directions, the messy attempts and re-folds and crumpled sheets of paper as we try and try and try again, that lead to a bird’s profile … and the exhalation of oxygen and hope and all of those simple, casual, everyday moments between each step in the folding, to puff up the crane and animate it, make it three-dimensional.
Our lives, like the crane bellies, are filled with wind, spirit and breath. And in many ways, with an accumulation of time … both mundane and special moments.
Plus there’s something magical when we — birds or human lives — dance together in the air.
On days like Saturday, we gather up these hopes and wishes and promises, our fears and sorrows and hurts, our flock of hard-won folds and imperfect shapes, and set them free in the sky. They’ll flutter. They’ll spiral. They’ll soar. They’ll land.
And we’ll scoop them up and do it again and again and again.