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MS Mission Moment

First question – what is a “mission moment”?  It is just something that reminds you of the mission that you are part of.  In my case, the mission is Ending MS and the moment I experienced today was on the 15-mile route of the Bike MS Tour de Farms event.  So here’s the scoop…

Today I rode the 15-mile route on the annual Bike MS Tour de Farms.  While I did do it, I certainly could have come with many legit excuses not to.  Everyone, including me, was completely exhausted from riding on Saturday, where I believe the heat index was around 95F – it was also sunny and most of the day was riding into a headwind.  In addition, I am very much out of shape, so was sore this morning.  Oh yes, and it was raining this morning with the chance of more later.  So I could have easily bagged out and nobody would have questioned it.  But I always say that we ride for those who cannot, so figured I had committed my weekend to Bike MS so I should get my fat a$$ on the bike and ride.  Besides, riding 15 miles is much better for me than riding 0 miles and stuffing my piehole with an omelet and hash browns somewhere.

So I took off and rode with my also out of shape friend – vowing to keep a nice, slow, but steady pace.

Fast forward to the rest stop, which was pretty close to halfway through our route.  I sat for maybe 10 minutes to drink some cold water and cool down a bit.  We got up to leave and while taking a couple of pictures, a pickup pulled into the parking lot of the park we were at.  No big deal really, or so I thought.  Put my helmet on and started to walk my bike a bit.  Then I noticed the guy that was in the truck.  His window was down and he was just watching all of us do our cycling thing – no real emotion either way – just watching.  My guess is he was in his 40s, casually dressed, with a camouflage hat.  Enter assumption/stereotype – guy in a good-sized pickup and a camouflage hat and we are out in the “country”.  The assumption is that there may be a gun rack on the back, and possibly a deer in the truck bed.  That was not the case, but stereotypes come from somewhere, so those kind of things pop into your head.

Then it happened.  He just spoke up, talking to nobody in particular, and said “I really appreciate what all of you are doing here.  I was diagnosed a year and a half ago, so thank you.”

(Mic drop time)

I was stunned, but also touched.  Not wanting to ignore him, I walked over on my bike and put my hand on his shoulder and said: “We are here for you man.  Raising one point five million today to help fight this disease.  My Mom had MS for over 35 years so I get it.”  My friend also commented that her Mom had MS as well.  My hand still on his shoulder, I could see the tears streaming down his face.  I had a hard time not crying myself.  Probably was too dehydrated anyway.  He said that he was going to the Convocation Center (where we start/finish) to check things out.  I told him that was a great idea, reminded him that all of us are here for him and to keep fighting.  I squeezed his shoulder, and then hit the road.

(In hindsight, there is much more I should have done and said, but just wasn’t thinking.  I was in cycling/survival/dehydration mode so wasn’t thinking clearly.  Ugh.)

Folks, THAT is exactly why we do what we do.  100%. 

How much courage did it take for that guy to come out to our rest stop, pull up, roll down his window, and speaking to nobody in particular, thank everyone and admit his situation.  And then cry in front of all of us.  It felt like a confession of sorts.  That HAD to be a huge step for him to do that.

I have no idea if this guy has a family to support him.  Does anyone else know of his situation?  How did he find out about our event?  And even after that, how on Earth did he find our tiny little rest stop on the 15-mile route.  Why did he start there and not just go to the Convocation Center and wander around.  Were we the “test” for him?  If so, I sure hope I responded OK and that he went to the Convocation Center to see the scale of what we do.

I feel really bad that I didn’t do a better job in supporting him, getting his information, and maybe helping to make a connection or two for him.  I looked for him at the Convocation Center when I got back, but didn’t see him.

MS reports a certain number of people have MS in the State, Nation, and World.  Those of us familiar with the disease know that it is a very under-reported disease.  It feels like this guy just came out of the woodwork and I can only hope is finding a way to get some support and help.  People with MS in Illinois just went up by 1, in my opinion.  I sure hope that our hard work on Bike MS made that happen.

Again, THAT is exactly why we do what we do.  Raising a lot of money is super awesome to help fight MS, but this wasn’t a fundraising moment, or a massive donation.  But this morning may have been life-changing for this guy – and we helped do that.  For that, I am grateful, and proud to be a part.

This may sound like I am exaggerating the situation, and I hope that I am doing a decent job painting the picture.  But again, for someone to just pull up to a tiny little rest stop, on a very small route, on a Sunday morning, and “confess” his MS situation to basically nobody in particular, HAS to have meant something to him.  To see the look on his face and the tears streaming down tells that this was a BIG deal for him.  No question.

So much more I feel I should have done.  I really hope he connected with some other folks that weren’t as exhausted as I was.  I hope to meet him again someday.

In chatting about this over lunch with my friend later, he mentioned the “Faces of MS”, which is exactly why I mentioned the stereotype comment earlier.  This guy is not the “typical” face of MS – at least not to me.  But it doesn’t matter, he has it – end of story.  MS doesn’t discriminate – it affects all types.  This guy I figured maybe was hunting or fishing earlier in the morning, was there to thank us and share his emotions. Boy was I wrong, which I find interesting, but I’ll write about that another time.

I am 2-for-2 on big MS events and really impactful mission moments.  My friend calls them “God winks”.  Call them what you want – they are pretty powerful in my opinion.

Thanks for reading and sharing this moment with me…



  • Dane

    Outstanding. You can second guess what you didn’t do. Don’t underestimate what you did do. That hand on the shoulder could be life changing….

    • aeroimages

      Thank you Dane – I hope it was a positive impact for him.

  • Kelli Morgan

    Thanks Joe! Needed this today.
    Great weekend and don’t think about what you didn’t say. He saw us riding and know we are there. Your hand on his shoulder was what he needed and said it all!
    We are there because we care and want to help anyway we can.

  • Tiffany

    http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/d/david_pomeranz/a_personal_touch.html
    You were the connection! Reminds me of these lyrics…besides the kissing part. Way to go!

  • Stephanie

    Joe the fact that you acknowledged him spoke volumes to him, I am certain. I should have read this after my client meeting this a.m. as I am certain my mascara is smeared, but heck if anyone says anything, I’ll share your story with them!! Thanks for starting off my Monday with hope and a random act of kindness and compassion. Thanks for all you do!!

  • Carol Stern

    Great story Joe. I definitely think this was a significant connection and that it made a huge difference to this man. Congratulations on the ride.

  • Ron Lilek

    I’m betting that he didn’t want you to do or say more, and probably preferred to remain anonymous. He just wanted to thank you.

  • Patrick Hayes

    Wow! Joe, I did bag the ride yesterday – I was beat up and sun burned from Saturday’s 75 mile route; and the forecasted weather pushed me over the edge. “I ain’t riding in a thunderstorm, not today, not the way I feel [at 07.00 AM]”.

    Your comment of riding for those who can’t and being committed to the event speak to the huge strength that you have. I shared your blog with my wife this morning over coffee. It is very touching. I’m proud that we share this mission. I may not be as committed as you, but I do share it.

    I agree with the one above who said the guy did what he wanted to do, remain anonymous, and Joe you handled the encounter beautifully.
    – Patrick Hayes, Team Marty Rides with Junedog

    • aeroimages

      Thank you Patrick – was glad to have experienced the moment.

  • Ada Willer

    You are awesome, Joe. I know well the fight your !mom fought, and I know too how proud and grateful she was that you took the time and made the huge effort to Bike MS and raise lots of money for the cause. As to the man who stopped — words may have failed you a bit, but I have no doubt that what you did meant a whole lot to this man. Again, you are awesome! God bless you and your friends.

    • aeroimages

      Honestly, this isn’t about me. This is about the mission and the cause. I am 100% certain that was not the only “mission moment” out there this weekend. Just wanted to share mine, as I figured folks would appreciate it. I find it all very motivating.

  • Joe,

    Your post made me cry. I am so happy that man encountered you and that you put a hand on him. Sometimes that & the info you imparted are all we need. I think what you did & said was perfect. Yes, you may have said more but most times LESS IS MORE. His just knowing you understood and offered a friendly hand was enough. I know fo myself that would have been plenty when I was diagnosed 25 years ago, anymore would have overwhelmed me & Chuck I think. So God Bless You & your team and please know just how much everything you do is appreciated by all of us. Hugzzzz, Karen

  • Barb

    Joe – thanks for sharing! And I agree with all the others…you handled it perfectly! From one who has MS and rides for MS, I appreciate the story on many levels. I also appreciate the riders, fundraisers, volunteers and the donations!! Great weekend!

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