Day 24 Part One: Knoxville to Maggie Valley, N.C.; It Should Have Been an Easy Ride; Dale; Gratitude; Angels.

Technically, it was an easy ride. The route was clear, the sky was Carolina blue and Big Red was doing her happy thing. Then I got hungry and decided to stop at a Wendy’s this time. I pulled off the exit and saw a man walking with a sign beside the road. I passed him and went up to the restaurant. The place was crowded so it took a while before I got my food. Because Big Red’s carries my luggage bag and laptop I always sit so I can keep an eye on her. After I had just gotten my food I watched as the man with the sign sat down a short distance away from my bike. I kept glancing at him. It didn’t look like he was going to mess with the bike. When I finished I walked over to him and asked him how he was doing.
He sat there and told me a long story about his life, how he’d just gotten out of the military, had come home and his wife of 20 years had filed for divorce and wouldn’t let him in the house because she was afraid of him, because he had PTSD. He suddenly didn’t have anywhere to go. The VA (Veteran’s Hospital) would take him but all they wanted to do was put him in a bed and drug him. He was trying to get back to where he grew up in Montana. He said he had stopped at a nearby church. When the pastor came to the door he asked if there was any work he could do for a peanut butter sandwich. He claimed the pastor asked him if he was on drugs or had been drinking. He asked the pastor to show him in the Bible where Jesus had asked that question, or any question like that had been asked before help was given. He just wanted to know could he do some work for a peanut butter sandwich. The minister closed the door on him. Later, while he was walking down the road, probably just before I had seen him, the police showed up and asked him had he been at the church. He explained that he had been, that he was just trying to do some work for some food. He said a police man threw a napkin down on the ground and said: Pick that up. He did and the policeman said: Here’s a dollar. Go get yourself something and then get out of town.
So he walked over here and bought himself a can of iced tea. He said the people in the store didn’t want him panhandling so he sat way over here. (in the hot sun). Come the first of the month he’d get some money put into his account. (It was June 1oth.)
He told me that some people come up to him and say: Thanks for your service. He said why do they thank me. I’m just doing a regular 9-5 job and getting paid for it like everyone else. The people that should get thanked are the ones that died over there. And he started to cry. They were the friends I had and they’re not coming back. He mentioned the various places that he had been stationed and started to choke up. Then he showed me where he had had surgery on both of his ankles because of an explosion. He said he had been born again, quoted a Bible verse and took a card out of his wallet that had reminders of important verses. He said he took it out and looked at it often when he needed it. He said he was thankful; that he felt blessed. It could be worse. I could be lying in a ditch or been killed like those boys who are never coming back. Then he started to stutter. I don’t like talking about it. I’ve been lucky. I’m very thankful.
We talked a bit more and then it was time to leave. Though he never once asked, I gave him some money. He looked at it. Are you sure? I nodded. Thanks man. He hugged me. We shook hands and I introduced myself.
He said: “I’m Dale. Bless you. I’ll pray for you and your family.”
“Thanks, I need every prayer I can get. I’ll pray for you too.”
So, what do you think? Was he genuine or did he con me? Who knows? I don’t know and frankly I don’t care. Maybe he was one of the Lamed Vav; one of the 36 hidden and humble saints the very continuation of the world rests upon? (You can search my blog for more references I’ve made to them). Maybe he was Elijah the prophet? According to an old Hasidic story Elijah often comes to us in disguise: someone ill mannered, a poor person, a beggar. And woe to us if we judge this person harshly and withhold assistance!
Maybe he was an angel? Hebrews says: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Heb. 13:4).
To be honest, I don’t know. I’m quick to judge others at times on very superficial things and I have to catch myself. Mother Teresa said that if we’re busy judging people we can’t be busy loving them. Which is more important?
All I know for sure is that I cried the rest of the way to Maggie Valley.

Searching for Angels: A Field Experiment Via Harley Road King. Part One.

Okay, I want to warn you that this entry is going to be a bit unusual.
In my last blog I talked about that passage from Hebrews 13:2 where we are admonished: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” It got me thinking about a psychological experiment that was conducted over forty years ago. A professor knew that the psychiatric profession was pretty good at labeling people with a mental illness diagnosis, but he wondered how good were they at detecting “sanity”. Yeah, sanity. How do you tell the difference between sane and insane people? And if a person is ever given a mental health diagnosis, can they ever recover? Not have to carry that diagnosis with them their entire lives? Bear with me for a minute because this does relate to the blog’s topic of “searching for angels”. Anyway, this professor (See: Being Sane in Insane Places) decided to conduct an experiment. He sent eight people (including himself) to twelve psychiatric hospitals in five states in the USA. They were to tell the same story to the admissions officers about hearing voices (auditory hallucinations). They were all admitted. Once in the hospital they told the staff that they felt fine and were no longer hearing voices. So how long would it take for the hospitals to decide that these people were now sane? Well, the fact is that none of them were ever identified as being sane, healthy. Their stays were from 7-52 days with an average stay of 19 days. That’s with them acting entirely normal once they were admitted. In fact, in order for all of them to get out they had to admit to having a mental illness and agree to take anti-psychotic drugs. Before they were released all but one were diagnosed as having schizophrenia “in remission”. Nice label to take with you the rest of your life, huh? When the professor published his findings the hospitals “flipped out”! They complained that his experiment wasn’t fair. That he should have informed them that he was sending fake patients to the hospitals to give them a fair chance at catching them. Fair enough, he replied and he agreed to redo the experiment with one particularly aggrieved hospital. He would send patients to them over the next few months and see if they could identify the fake ones. Over that period of time that hospital had 193 admissions and they reported that they believed that 41 of the patients were fakes. That’s when the professor informed them that he actually hadn’t sent anyone into the hospitals!
Can you see where I’m going with this? If the professionals couldn’t detect sane people then how good are we at detecting angels among the strangers we meet? That quote from Hebrews gives us a warning that we might not spot them! Emerson said that they might be “disguised and discredited” folks. I know that the story in Hebrews was a long time ago but there’s no reason at all to think that God has stopped sending angels in disguise to us. Maybe God is running the same kind of experiment. “I’m going to send angels to you disguised as strangers and I want you to treat them with hospitality. I’m watching. I want to see if you can identify them.” Well we were kind of warned in Hebrews. And this idea of showing hospitality to strangers is highly recommended in both the Hebrew and Christian Bibles and the Koran.
So, I have decided to do an experiment. Over the next week or so I’m going to see if I can identify angels in the strangers I meet and I’m going to treat them hospitably. Should be a “piece of cake” as we say in the USA or “wee buns” as they say in Ireland (I have no idea as to where these expressions came from!) Wherever I go I’m going to be scouting them out. I’m going to be eagle-eyed so I can catch these rascals. Think they can pull one over on me and Big Red, do they? We’ll see about that. I’ll report back to you in due course. And, I’ve got an “insane” idea, or is it “sane”? Why don’t you try doing it too and see how many angels you can find? We can compare notes.

To be continued…

Day 24: Home! Total Trip Miles: 6794 Miles, Sleep, Journeys, Angels, Hospitality

It’s been about 36 hours since I returned from my trip and I’ve slept about 24 of them. The last day of the trip I just kept going and ended up doing around 660 miles in 12 hours. And yes, that part of my body was sore. But there are folks who belong to the Iron Butt Club which requires that they do over 1000 in a day. Compared to those iron amazons I’m more like aluminum.
I left before 7am on my last day, July 4th, and knew the roads would be comparatively empty due to the holiday. They were. Peeled through towns: Abilene, Ft Worth/Dallas, Shreveport, Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, and Gadsen. Saw folks gathered in parks festooned with red, white and blue bunting. Others, on the road like me, were traveling somewhere.
Tolstoy said that “all great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.” Well, needless to say, this ain’t great literature but on the trip I did both; I was the man going on the journey and the stranger riding into town. And I met a whole slew of amazing people; some celebrating a marriage and others coping with tremendous loss. I was enriched by getting to know them and their stories, however brief. And there were many more stories I never got to tell, but I hope to add them here someday. The trip reaffirmed for me that whether we are physically moving anywhere, or merely staying put, we’re all on a journey somewhere. And our journey intersects and influences the lives of so many people, for good or ill, whether we know it or not.
A few days before the end of the trip I came upon this quote which I think applies to all of us.
“Your journey has molded you for your greater good, and it was exactly what it needed to be. Don’t think you’ve lost time. There is no short-cutting to life. It took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now. And now is right on time.”
― Asha Tyson
Good and bad experiences brought us to where we are today. Let’s cherish the now.
The Bible says: “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!”
I’m certainly no angel. Maybe the people, the strangers we meet every day are angels and maybe they’re not. I find it hard to judge. It’s a safer bet to try and see angels in everyone we meet. That’s what I want to remember from this trip. We’re all on a journey. At the very least let’s be kind to our fellow travelers, some of which most certainly are angels.
So thanks for riding with me. Best wishes on your journey. Ride safe!