The Best Story | Guest Post
Oh, to be grateful! Oh, to be happy! Oh, to know that life is absolutely and completely beautiful!
How might I share this deep sense of gratitude and encouragement I feel with you all through a blog, when I've only ever written five blog posts in my entire life, and I generally feel much more comfortable speaking than writing?
I suppose that it must be through a story. Stories are the only way that I know how to express what I feel and what I believe.
I'm convinced this is the best story I'll ever share, and I hope you see and feel my gratitude and thankfulness when you get to the end. I hope you know that strangers are just friends you've never met. And I hope that you are inspired and encouraged to be generous with your time, things, and gifts, prayerfully seeking how God would guide you in every single step.
Without further ado, the best true story I will ever, ever tell:
I was in the middle of riding my bicycle across the country. Three thousand, four hundred miles from Los Angeles, California to Delaware.
We had just crossed the border into Tennessee, and I just happened to be the first person to arrive at the house we were staying at that night. I left my bike outside by the mailbox so the rest of my teammates would know that was where we were supposed to stay; our maps were wrong and there was no cell-phone service there.
Over the next hour, my teammates entered the house, one by one, and expressed their gratitude for me leaving my bike outside.
Two hours after I arrived, the last of my teammates arrived. They were frustrated and confused about the incorrect maps and directions.
I asked them if they had seen my bike out front.
"Bike?" They asked. "What bike?"
I immediately knew that my bike was gone forever.
I was in Tennessee. I was supposed to ride my bike 800 miles more to the Atlantic Coast. We still had 1.5 weeks to go. I was broke.
And someone had just stolen my bike.
I went to take a shower and cry. I didn't want to talk to anyone or do anything.
Thirty minutes later, the lady who owned the house came knocking on the bathroom door.
"Jess?" she says. "We are going to eat dinner, so you need to get out of the shower."
"I don't want to eat," I moped. "Can I just stay here?"
"No," she says. "We don't want to leave you here alone."
Why can't I stay here? I thought. Is she scared I am going to steal something or hurt myself? I really, really, really don't want to be around people right now.
Angrily, I got dressed and stomped down the stairs. I couldn't stop crying.
About ten minutes later, we pulled into an empty parking lot. I looked out the window and saw a bike just standing there, alone, with nothing and no one around it.
"What the....!?!?" I exclaimed. "That's not my bike, but... that's my bike! I am so confused!"
I knew it was not my bike because the bike that had gotten stolen was blue and white, and this bike was red and black. But I could tell, even from the car, that this bike was the same make and model that my old bike was, and it even had the same pedals, bike computer, and wonky green handlebar tape that I had put on my old bike.
And then the nice woman we were staying with, the one that I had angrily stomped down the stairs at and pouted at in her car as we were driving, started to explain:
"Jess, when your bike got stolen, I was secretly so, so thrilled. Our family has a lot of money, and we hope to be generous with our money and things. While we do give a lot of money to non-profits, it's rare that we get to see first-hand someone who is tangibly helped by our generosity.
"So I have been praying to find a way to give and be generous with someone that popped into my life, and then your bike got stolen!
Thus, I was naturally thrilled to buy you a new one!"
My teammates had told her every detail of my bike, and they had quickly gone to the bike shop to buy my exact bike and customize it exactly like my old one. The water bottle cages, custom seat, bike geometry, and everything about this new bike was exactly the same as my old one. All said and done, it was definitely well over $1,000 brand new.
I am grateful for generous strangers, I am grateful for opportunities to see the bright side, and I am so, so grateful for this bike. We've ridden from Tennessee to Delaware, Seattle to Portland, and Monterey to San Diego together.
And one day, we're gonna ride from Alaska to Argentina, too.