Written by: Karen Powers
I am an English teacher, so please forgive me for starting off this blog entry by writing about a book. One of my favorite books is Annie Dillard’s “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.” In it, Dillard writes about growing up in Pittsburgh, where one of her most memorable childhood activities was to hide pennies somewhere along the sidewalk for strangers to find. She would write in chalk on the sidewalk “surprise ahead” or “money this way,” and then sit back and imagine the joy on passersby’s faces when they discovered the hidden treasure. Reading about this makes me think about the last time I bothered to stop to pick up a penny – or even a quarter, for that matter. How much money would I have to find on the sidewalk in order to not just stop to pick it up, but to actually be filled with joy?
Dillard goes on to write: “I’ve got great plans. I’ve been thinking about seeing. There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But—and this is the point—who gets excited by a mere penny? If you follow one arrow, if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremulous ripple thrill on the water and are rewarded by the sight of a muskrat kid paddling from its den, will you count that sight a chip of copper only, and go your rueful way? It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple. What you see is what you get.”
A key part of the Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure philosophy is the practice of simple living. We ride bikes, we sleep on air mattresses on the floors of church halls, we eat simple meals together, we live out of a suitcase or bag that weighs no more than 40 pounds. For nine weeks, we are sacrificing luxuries like sleeping in a real bed, having the ability to sit back in your favorite recliner after a long day and watch television, being able to jump in your car and go somewhere whenever you want, and, the biggest sacrifice for me personally: having your own, private bathroom! During our first ten days together, I have discovered that these sacrifices help to create the “healthy poverty and simplicity” that Dillard extolls. When you leave all the “stuff” behind, you begin to see. You notice things like roadside flowers and birds soaring overhead, cloud formations and which way the wind is blowing, the welcoming smiles of strangers and the support of friends, near and far. Thanks to the Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure, I have begun to look for signs pointing towards hidden treasures. From the seat of my bicycle, I have begun to see pennies everywhere.