The blog is always unplugged, always unscripted and just written the way I see things in the moment, in my heart and in my mind. That’s the way it is, week in and week out. Most weeks, the blog takes care of itself because things happen on the road and in life that just give me ammunition to say stuff. But always, from one minute to the next, I never really know what’s coming until it’s out there in words. Sometimes I wonder if that’s the way it is for songwriters: do they really just sit down and go “y’know what, I think I’ll write a number one hit today”. No, it never works like that, not for me anyway. It’s not until I’ve converted my thoughts into words and got them down into sentences that I decide whether I’m satisfied. Some weeks, I just bin the lot and start again. But this is not going to be one of those weeks, and I’ve known it for the past couple of days.
Last week, as the words flowed from my mind to my fingertips, the following sentence evolved from somewhere:
I reckoned at the time that since fighting childhood cancer often took years, I should undertake a challenge that would similarly push me to my limits, day after day, in order that I could in some way come to understand what it must be like to wake up every morning and go “not again”…
Now I’ve got to say at this point that while I’m not an addicted follower of my stats, I am loosely aware that some weeks hardly anyone reads my stuff, whereas other weeks I might get fifty views. I guess I don’t really know what constitutes a lot but I do know that being appreciated for what I do means more to me than anything else in the world. I’m acutely aware that LifeCycle hasn’t raised anywhere near as much money as I’d initially hoped it would, but that does not, and will not stop me from doing my best. With a full time job and a family, all I can realistically do is ride my bike, write my blog, and hope that people out there like it sufficiently to keep all of us pushing the message out there: that there are children being diagnosed with neuroblastoma every third day in this country and we need to do something about it. It hurts that someone at my work asked how much I’d raised and when I told them, that individual poo pooed my efforts as though I was wasting my time. I have no time for people like that.
And so it was that something happened last Saturday morning that has set in motion a chain of events that has shaped not only this week and next week, it has set me up and given me renewed energy to face what I have dubbed the hundred days of hell, the days when I will ride 40 miles a day and not see a single minute of daylight.
When I woke last weekend, it was to this simple message: Love this comparison “..not again..” True for many families today.
It came from a special person in the context of what I’m trying to do. And can I say that receiving such a blessing has quite literally the same effect as shining the brightest star on the darkest of days, for to be appreciated for what you do is as good as it gets.
But it didn’t end there: after a further exchange, the following message arrived two days later: Are you familiar with the poem which contains line “rest if you must, but don’t you quit”? I wasn’t, but not for long. It took me all of ten seconds to find it with Google and what I discovered just blew me away.
My first instinct was to think that the sender couldn’t possibly have known of the inspirational support that I would find in those words. Or maybe they did. And the more I thought about it, the more I became certain. These are the very words that describe everything, absolutely everything, that I feel about LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma. That person knew in a heartbeat what those words would mean to me. I drew enormous strength from the fact that someone out there felt sufficiently engaged to appreciate my work in the first place, but even more so from what they’ve been able to give me in return. This is what will see me through the coming hundred days of hell…
When things go wrong as they sometimes will
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill
When the funds are low and the debts are high
And you want to smile but you have to sigh
When care is pressing you down a bit
Rest if you must but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns
As every one of us sometimes learns
And many a fellow turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor’s cup
And he learned too late when the night came down
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out –
The silver tint in the clouds of doubt
And you never can tell how close you are
It might be near when it seems afar
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.
The message that spawned the poem arrived not 12 hours after I had been nominated for the dreaded Ice Bucket Challenge, the craze that has swept the western world in a fit of Facebook frolics. But why is it I get the impression that 90% of the attention is focussed in the visual embarrassment of the individual rather than the content of the message. Armed with my new found poem and a need to identify a group of worthy nominees, I set about the task of planning my own downpour some hours later. It was a given that Don’t You Quit would be the centrepiece of my performance.
I actually changed my mind on who I would select more than once and it was only during my cycle home on Monday evening that I zoned in on the theme that would complete the set: children’s charity work. First up was easy: Martin Beaton, Chumba to me. Chumba was a Highland Marcher as long ago as 2006 and it was he who took the concept of walking long distance to a football match onto the international stage when he announced his intention to walk back from Oslo to Hampden between World Cup qualifiers back in 2009. Is it any coincidence that after Martin and his troop walked round Hampden Park following their arrival in Glasgow, the fabled Kilt Walk began life the following year? My next two nominations were equally straight forward: Lady Madonna and Slater, Chumba’s comrades in walking every step of the way. I did think of nominating Wum but quickly dispelled any notion of that when I recalled that he claimed to have walked the whole thing, live on Sky television, when history shows that he did no such thing. LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma does not suffer quitters readily.
And finally I nominated Jimmy Harrington. If there is a more inspirational 21 year old on the planet today, then I would be more than surprised. The guy who decided, at the age of 20, to walk 18,000km round the coastline of Australia to raise money and awareness for brain cancer in children is a super hero in my book. And finally I nominated Tara Griffin, not to do the challenge but to get Jimmy’s bucket live on Australian television. No pressure, eh Tara! You can do it, I know you can.
And finally… the video of the poem and the message that went with the bucket, that took 2 hours to upload to You Tube, had hit 118,000 accounts within an hour of my launching it on Twitter. Something tells me that even though the funding is low, the awareness of this project is not.
I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
And I will leave you with these words: I may rest if I must but I will not quit.