I sat on my motorcycle on that very hot day watching bike after bike after bike pull out onto the road.
I was in Indianapolis, Ind., with friends for a charity ride recently. More than a thousand motorcycles and probably 2,000 people or so had shown up for the annual ride, which benefitted a local children’s hospital. Over the years, the ride had raised millions for the hospital, which does not charge families for the care.
It had been a hot weekend – temperatures in the upper 90s with very high humidity – but that didn’t stop people from coming out and supporting the event. We rode from Rockford, but there were bikers from all over the place.
We were at the back of the biggest group ride I had ever been on. By the time we got back from the ride, which took us past the hospital to rev engines and honk for the kids, the people who were at the front of the ride had already eaten their lunch and finished their first water.
The day before the big ride, we had a “poker run.” People started at a variety of Harley-Davidson dealerships in that area of Indiana (we started in Muncie) and all ended at the same place in Indianapolis. Every group had to make stops at businesses on the way back to the city to get a stamp. At the end of the ride, they drew cards for those stamps. Get a good hand, you win. I did not get a good hand.
The poker run cost $50, which was the donation for the charity ride. A guy from the area who was alone tagged along with me and a friend. So did two motorcycles carrying people from Ohio who had no GPS. Our little band spent the next few hours together riding, chatting and generally trying not to melt.
No arguments, no big statements, no negativity. It was quite nice.
The next day, as people gathered for the main event, it was a sea of bikes and black T-shirts. In that gathering, I am sure there were people of most religions, of political beliefs that swung from hard right to hard left and everything in between. There were people who looked like lawyers and people who looked like outlaw bikers.
It was a mixed bag of humanity.
But do you know what there wasn’t? Any arguments or disagreements. People of all kinds shoulder to shoulder on a steaming hot day and there were plenty of smiles and lots friendly conversation.
Remember when this used to be the norm? I do too. These days we are so entrenched in our beliefs that we can’t even be around people who don’t agree with us. Everything is black and white.
But you know what? It’s not. You can support Black Lives Matter and the police. You can support the police but demonstrate against the actions of violent officers.
You can be a churchgoer but be friends with an atheist. You can love or dislike a president and still be friends with those who feel the opposite.
Remember when this was the way things were? It wasn’t really that many years ago. And we can get there again. We just need to shut our mouths more and open our ears. The vitriol needs to stop. The anger needs to be put in check. Let’s be passionate about the things we agree on and use that as a starting point.
I sat in a large tent after the ride, sweating and drinking water after water. There were live auctions going on and people wandered around, talking. I didn’t see a bad look or hear a raised voice – except for the rapid-fire cadence of the auctioneer.
It was nice. But also a little sad that it felt like a rare moment in a huge public storm that seems to have no end.