(A Dime per Climb)
I had intended in this week’s post to explore mindfulness and meditation, strategies in the self-care tool kit. Instead, I want to talk today about issues of racism that have been highlighted yet again by the May 25 murder of George Floyd, and by the homicides of so many other innocent black victims, by police sworn to serve and protect them. These slayings have re-focused national attention on, and raised fundamental questions about, the deeply embedded racism against blacks in this country:
Will the collective action and voices of millions of protesters, combined with the unflagging efforts of organizations like Black Lives Matter and the Equal Justice Initiative, cause a sea change in national attention and understanding, and replace denial and indifference with the resolve to act?
Will bipartisan legislation (is that still a thing?) and effective, sustainable policy finally take a sledgehammer to mass incarceration, violent and sometimes fatal abuse by law enforcement, as well as the economic inequity that so many black Americans face?
Although I often do not feel qualified to answer these complex, big picture questions, I can still act locally while continuing to think nationally. This raises several questions of a more limited scope that I think I can answer more meaningfully:
What I can do? I started by making small monthly donations to the Equal Justice Initiative. EJI was founded by Bryan Stevenson, a nationally known author and leading black civil rights lawyer. EJI’s elite team of lawyers’ pro bono mission includes working to end mass incarceration and excessive sentencing in the US, particularly of black people.
What more could I do to support EJI? All donations have significance, but my monthly contributions brought to mind the old adage, “It’s just a drop in the ocean.” A cycling article I read three weeks ago suggested an answer. It describes how an Aussie pro cyclist climbed the equivalent of Mt. Everest’s elevation by riding his bike up a 618-foot hill in Colorado 47 times in one day.
I decided to embark on a saner version of this concept to raise additional money for EJI. Through my GoFundMe account (Cycling for Justice), I am seeking donations to EJI of a dime for every climb I do up a 135-foot, half mile long “hill” near our house in Princeton, NJ. My goal is to do 846 climbs by October 23, an average of seven climbs per day, totaling 114,210 feet. (That’s just shy of four times Everest’s summit, Friends.)
Like exercise, acting on behalf of other people is an important brick in the foundation of wellness. Studies have confirmed that working in the service of others often mitigates stress and reduces depression. It shifts our focus outwards, brings perspective to our own lives, and pulls us out of the toxic shadows of loneliness.
Some might argue that self-care is selfish. I have little patience for that sort of cynicism. A win-win arrangement is by its nature symbiotic. Every act of human kindness strengthens the inclusive, spiritual circle of love and healing.
Is my plan “enough?” Of course I could do more. I am looking for ways to do that. But right now, as James Gurney said, “One raindrop raises the sea.” Better to let some drops of healing water fall into the sea, than to watch in silence from shore. If my efforts ripple outwards, and inspire some other folks to do what they can to help, that’s all to the good.
If you’d like to contribute to EJI’s vitally important criminal and social justice work, direct donations can be made through Cycling for Justice. While a dime per climb would be $84.60 (rounded up to $85 due to GoFundMe’s rules), any amount would be wonderful.
BOOK: “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson
MOVIE: “Thirteenth,” a Netflix documentary.
QUOTE: “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.” Bryan Stevenson
COMING SOON TO A BLOG NEAR YOU:
“It’s the Helmet, Silly! (Improving bike safety in the age of smartphones.)”
“Mindful of the Mundane. (Paying attention to whatever you are doing right now.)”
May we all work in the service of one another with warm hearts and open minds.