Open Road Press

“Pay It Forward”

Clearwater National Forest, IdahoWhile snooping around on the Adventure Cycling Association website last evening, I was struck by the amount of information to aid bicycle tourism. This nonprofit advocacy group boasts over 41,000 miles of mapped routes to provide the cyclist with a challenging, yet enjoyable, adventure. Not only has the work of pioneers who navigated, researched, and traveled various routes been preserved to maximize the cyclist experience, online forums allow would-be tourists to query touring veterans for advice. It really is an amazing world in which we live.

I was reminded of our own adventure in 2010, when Debbie and I bicycled across America. Leading up to our trip, we had been so busy navigating through a different kind of trip that we had had little time to devote to researchng our bicycle travel options. We were fully engaged in life. When we escaped the frenzy to celebrate our wedding with our cross-country excursion, thank goodness others had traveled before us and documented their findings. In fact, part of our trail had originally been forged in the 1800’s by none other than Lewis and Clark. Over the years, others had followed with shovels, backhoes, cartography skills, and computers to craft a time-tested trail sure to please. Rest assured, plenty of adventure still encountered us. Despite having many of the difficult navigational decisions made for us, delightful bonuses awaited along a route teeming with beautiful scenery and tranquil settings. Our duty was simplified. Just pedal and enjoy–and figure out survival on the road and in the wild. Predecessors had already blazed, refined, and documented the trail for us, and we benefited immensely from this knowledge.

The same is true in other facets of life. There is nothing new under the sun. If you seek help in the right places, you will usually receive just what you need–and then some. Perhaps you need to learn a new skill or technique. Maybe you need advice on your automobile. Or, you are having difficulty with a relationship, or your job. Others have already been there. Seek their help. Don’t bother blazing a trail that others already have. Devote your energy to forging new trails for others who will follow. This is the essence of progress: leverage and build on existing knowledge. Drive your pick ax into virgin rock rather than swishing dirt around in the sandbox of life.

I’ve found in life that we often receive guidance or help from people who we will never be able to repay. But, that’s okay. I’m not sure we’re meant to repay them. Maybe that’s just the way God designed it. It’s humbling…and that is good. Our “drive-by” benefactors, angels, and mentors may simply have been in the right place at the right time, and with the right resources. To have given a gift that cannot be repaid was their treat. We shouldn’t take it away. With divine timing, someday we’ll have the opportunity to help someone else who needs our own special gifting. The modern term is to “pay it forward.” Look for those opportunities. And don’t let them slip by, for of such are the blessings in life. It’s what we were made to do.

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