“Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
This evening, during my training ride, I came upon an old man sitting next to his bike on the side of the trail. The paved trails of Houston are quite popular during this hour, especially on a beautiful day like today, so I pass by tons of people on this trail and think nothing of it. But today, something told me to stop and ask if he was okay.
“I’m tired,” he stated. “I outdid myself. I’ve done 12 miles already and this trail can get hilly.” I immediately offered him some of my water, another thing I would hardly think to do for a stranger. To my surprise, he gladly accepted.
I spent the next 30 minutes listening to this old man’s life story in awe. He is 85 years old, helped found the Houston Cycling Club in the 1960s, and has a long history with cycling. Today was his first day back on the bike after taking the past 4 years off to be by his wife’s side during a rough period of illness. She recently passed after 60 years of marriage, and the way he spoke of her was the epitome of love. He told me of his high school days as a tennis star. His wife was voted “most likely to succeed” AND friendliest. They learned to square dance together and danced 3+ nights a week for years and years. He told me of his proudest cycling achievements, his favorite mountain destinations, and where he learned to ski.
Usually my mind races so much that it can be hard for me to just sit back and listen. But tonight I was so mesmerized by this stranger opening up his heart to me, I just really enjoying listening to him thinking out loud, re-living his life in a storybook way, telling me about the things he did or wishes he had done. He asked for my name (for the third time because he kept forgetting it) and told me like a grandfather, “Please consider doing these things. There is so much I hope you do.” And then finally, “I’m going to look for your name. I can tell you are going places.”
We went our separate ways, “hoping” to see each other again one day on this trail.
These trails, they connect us. In body and in soul. This one interaction, half an hour with a stranger, was the best reminder of how insignificant my day to day struggles will one day seem. You never know what will happen if you just follow your gut sometimes. Get out of your comfort zone. Open your ears and perhaps someone will open their heart in a time they need it most.