This year the participants of Cycling for Change rode 7 days (from June 3rd to June 9th), leaving from Kansas City and moving through Butler, Nevada and into Joplin. This year C4C was made up of 13 cyclists, 6 support members, and 130 volunteers bused in from Kansas City to work on 5 different projects initiated by Catholic Charities in Southern Missouri. While in Southern Missouri on Wednesday the groups volunteered in various ways. Carol’s group organized and unpacked donations at the Catholic Charities warehouse. Other volunteers worked on cleanup projects, prepared space for a retaining wall, watered the 161 trees in Centennial Park that commemorate those Joplin residents killed in the tornado, and caulked windows in renovated homes. The ride picked up again on Thursday, moving through Stockton, Holden, and then returning to Kansas City on June 9th. Carol completed the journey with an impressive 440 miles in total. She also completed a “century” – 100 miles in one day on June 8th.
What is Cycling for Change? I’m often asked this question by those who are new to C4C. I also hear this question raised by the cyclist and volunteers involved with C4C rides. I don’t know that I had a really good answer to this question before participating as a cyclist, but I think I finally know myself.
The “fast” answer is that C4C is an event developed through Catholic Charities of Kansas City – St. Joseph to engage people in discussions about poverty in America and what each of us can do to help our neighbors. It strives to support the work of Catholic Charities to help those living below the poverty line. I thought I knew what poverty looked like prior to the ride, but I was not fully informed.
Living in an urban area, I thought that was where poverty lived, but now I know that poverty lives in all corners of my state. I learned about poverty in rural Missouri by visiting 5 different cities I've never been to even though I am a “lifer” in this state. Poverty takes many different shapes and it lives in every corner of this country. Poverty can be a long-term situation or it can enter your life quickly, as quickly a tornado strips you of all you own.
I thought I knew what it took to be Catholic in a city full of multiple parishes and amidst various controversies. I found that to be truly Catholic means welcoming strangers into your community with food and shelter even when you are a very small group yourself. I witnessed 5 small communities of Catholics who held tightly to their faith with both hands while extending those same hands to those in need - even when that might be a group of hungry bicyclists.
Cycling resides in both isolation and community. You ride on for miles along back roads and never see anyone. No safety net. No immediate help. Alone. But then on the horizon you see your team mates, a car with water and food, or even just a small town at the side of the road. Respite. It is not lost on me how fortunate I was to know my next helping hand was a short 10 miles down the road. If only this was true for the more than 40 million Americans living below the poverty line. The stretch between helping hands can be so much longer than just a few miles.
So, what is Cycling for Change? “Cycling” is just the mode of transportation. "For" reflects the inclusivity of both the team members and all those in the communities we visited. But, "Change" is the key. I am changed because of what I saw, the stories I heard, and the time I had on my bike to contemplate, reflect and pray. My participation in Cycling for Change changed me. Now I go forward to share how I was changed and to encourage those around me work toward the changes necessary to significantly reduce poverty in America. Our neighbors are counting on us.
For more information on this event, go to “cyclingforchange.org”.
Submitted by Carol Beckel
The Joplin warehouse team from day 4