It's true of life that when faced with a long journey to achieve the goals and ambitions we set for ourselves, it's helpful for us to understand that to reach the target, we have to take one step at a time to progress towards our dreams.
In the case of my recent trip to Sri Lanka, a charity bike ride that would require every morsel of strength and endurance that I possess in order to complete the 400 kilometers, that belief could be translated to the importance of taking 'one hill at a time'.
Believe me there were many of them - more than I care to remember - but like our life's desires, when we get there, when we hold as our own what we could only picture in our imaginations before: the hills, the pain once felt in our weary legs (and bums) just pale into insignificance, leaving only the memories of the highlights of our incredible trip fresh in the mind.
You might get the gist that I not only enjoyed this two-wheeled experience but also that I found it deeply moving too. It's correct to assume that it was emotional, personal, satisfying and educational amongst other superlatives, yet the only way I could really summarise this rollercoaster to anyone not present seemed to veto expressing it in just words, but in a poem, something I haven't attempted since senior school - yet something I have just learnt that I enjoy immensely. I hope you like it too!
One Hill at a Time
Attending a bash in December, I was asked 'Jeff, do you like to cycle and do you like a test?'
The fact it was through Sri Lanka made me give a simple 'yes'
I'd recently done a triathlon, the ride my favourite bit,
I'd just brought my own road bike so naturally it seemed a perfect fit.
The months flew by, the nerves begun, I didn't know a single person whose company I'd be in,
It didn't matter, I'd already promised, so the sponsorship was to begin
I'd raised enough so off I went, destination: the city of Colombo
I met the gang, my new roommate Dwight, up early, day one, stretch! It was time to go.
The unforgettable thrill of the downhill slalom fulfilled a childhood dream
An hour without pedalling was so exciting I wanted to shout and scream
Wind in your face, trusting your brakes with your life, cut a corner if you dare -
We wouldn't have it any other way, the need for that shot of adrenalin is what these people clearly share.
The feeling of achievement after terror Tuesdays mountainous climb -
The focus it required that made an irrelevance of distance and time.
The scenery we took in when we rolled through the mud, wind and torrential rain
The smiles of a thousand friendly welcomes that will bring me here again.
Somewhere over the 400k in five days, an awareness was to begin
All I saw around me was kindness, so I'm grateful the team welcomed me in
Within the group a number of inspirations, tirelessly giving, charitable and true
They're what's special about humanity - I think the world would fall apart in the absence of you.
Now the graft is over it's hard to express the gratitude I feel,
At first, in my ignorance cycling through Sri Lanka was this trips primary appeal.
Ever the wannabe athlete, at first I joined the leaders at a blistering pace,
I quickly realised though that that wasn't the point, it was the teamwork I wanted to embrace.
A message to the sponsors: I've spent a week with the people your donations effect -
Where would we be without you, my friends you've earned my total respect.
I'm young fit and healthy yet reaching the end stands as a personal best
What if I had Down's Syndrome and on the back of a tandem I also passed the test?
I done well but the guys were amazing let's never underestimate the significance of their experience -
Spending six hours a day pedalling hard, digging in, it's nothing short of brilliance!
One incident though, he's not a violent guy - I don't want you misled
But during a conversation with Martin I couldn't quite understand him - so he threw a glass at my head!
Being on the road giving my support, encouraging them side by side
In my naivety at first I thought it was my influence to them that I'd provide
Quickly though I noticed a shift it wasn't the relationship I believed,
After a week of building friendships I was enlightened, it was ME who had received!
It makes you question disability, were they meant to be inferior?
Everything I've seen this week makes Norwood's residents appear staggeringly superior!
I'm inspired, humbled, totally fortunate for their week to involve me
Sadly we all go back to our lives and the support from the group is no longer to be.
Norwood's job is simple, they give people the right to a quality of life,
In their care they develop and grow, distance themselves from the trouble and strife.
Unfortunately those with learning difficulties can be subject to ignorance and discrimination
The charity give them a sense of self, so they are well worth your kind donation.
If you could see Nick cracking jokes or James splash in the pool, you'd feel a complete satisfaction -
This tandem bike ride is the highlight of their year, so many moments caused an unexpected teary reaction.
I cycled with Douglas who has a degenerative condition he uses a bespoke recumbent trike-
We cycled attached together, up and down hills, an honour is what it felt like.
Douglas embodied dignity using inner strength to achieve this success
The truth is after he allowed me to join him, inside I was an emotional mess
To undermine his body's unwillingness using sheer power of positive thought
'There's no problems only solutions' is the lesson he effortlessly taught.
Douglas was assisted by the definition of selflessness two guys everything friends should be...
I could only pray to have around me saints like them if anything should happen to me.
'Above and beyond' was the spirit captured by many of the Norwood care staff
So giving, so caring, do angels exist? Ian, Nigel and Michelle still smile through any task.
So thank you Norwood, I'll shout your cause from the rooftops and encourage more people to join in -
Because I've found there's so much more to these charity bike rides than it says on the tin.
In conclusion I hope my words paint pictures of a place you'd like to be,
I'd struggle to think of an experience that could be more significant to me.
Maybe you'll ride through a new country with me next year, you're certainly most welcome to take part!
Just prepare yourself for something moving, leveling, life changing. I'll see you at the start.