Where we live we see walkers, runners and cyclists cruising by every morning and every evening. Some are really ripping along, but most move at a moderate pace. As I’ve watched them, I’ve admired their interest in fresh air, sunshine and exercise.
But that’s before I bumped into Steve last week. I’ve known Steve since he was a twerp, and since he went to high school with our daughter, Goldilocks.
I was out walking myself at a modest pace and Steve came barreling on his super bike and stopped to talk about walking, running and biking. He let me know there’s much more to it than fresh air, sunshine and exercise. To him, his workouts are more intense and purpose-driven than casual. He introduced a character aspect of the whole process. He explained that the wind direction and long hills make character development a factor.
Here’s how it works. If there’s a strong wind blowing, it takes more character to walk, run or pedal your bike against the wind or uphill. So you can plan your route to have the wind in your face or at your back and most trips you will have some of each. So if you plan to have the wind at your back at the end, you’re taking the easy way. But if you save the wind in your face or the steep hills for the last, you’re building character.
Steve is one of those highly motivated guys who believes he can always be getting better, stronger or faster. It’s not enough to simply go through the motions of a bike ride, because if you push yourself uphill or into the wind, you make yourself a stronger person – a better person.
In other words, according to Steve, you have more character.
I never asked Steve for his definition of character. But I assumed it was the usual assortment – honesty, humility, generosity, work ethic, loyalty, sincerity, dependability, moral and ethical strength – you know, the whole package. And he never explained what the benefits of greater character are. If all character does for you is to enable you to walk, run or cycle faster or with greater endurance, character’s all physical, like more muscle or lung capacity. No big deal except for the person who has it.
But if character really benefits somebody other than the person who has it, then the community shares in one another’s character and we are all in a better place if we have people among us who have character. In short, we have a better community.
If Steve is right that we can develop character by taking the more difficult route and if character does more than develop muscle and strength, we should all cheer the crowd going upwind or uphill and we should bless them as I blessed Steve when I said goodbye last week: "May the wind be always in your face."